Monday, April 30, 2012

Blaming and Shaming or
Making It Better

 

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

—The words of Jesus from Matthew 7:3-5

 

Have you ever known a family that never had even a single problem? Where no one ever got seriously sick or was unemployed for an extended period of time? A family of perfect children and perfect in-laws? Of course not. No family escapes problems.

In fact, a healthy family anticipates problems and develops ways to deal with them. But a dysfunctional family is more likely to fall into a pattern of blaming and shaming when troubles come their way.

The dysfunctional family. Or, more specifically, the dysfunctional church family. That’s my topic for this blog post.

Throughout Scripture, God draws parallels between the earthly family and the family of God. Just read through Ephesians 5, as one example, and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Remember these words?

Husbands love your wives, as Christ loves the church.

In any case, just like a healthy family, a healthy church family also anticipates problems and develops ways to deal with them. But, just like a dysfunctional family, a dysfunctional church family is also more likely to fall into a pattern of blaming and shaming when troubles come their way.

In a dysfunctional family, blaming says:

“You’re the problem in this family. You make a mess everywhere.”

Or,

“You never obey. Everything would be peaceful around here if you just did what you were told.”

Or,

“I can’t stand another day with your uncle living here! He makes my entire life sour. Nothing’s gone right since the day he moved in!”

Blaming someone else. Finding a scapegoat. Pointing a finger in another’s direction. Shouting,

“You’re the problem!”

Shaming takes it a step further. Shaming attacks, humiliates, sees no good whatsoever in the person. Shaming demeans with accusations like:

“You’re nothing but a lazy bum!”

Or,

“I can’t stand anything about you.”

Or,

“You’re no good. I wish you had never been born!”

If you think about this “blaming and shaming” carefully, you quickly realize that such behavior is simply a way for one family member to try to exert control over another family member. That’s right. It’s all about control. It’s such an important concept that I feel I need to repeat it. In almost every conflict it’s all about control.

When a child exists in this climate of control, it has a way of damaging the way the child perceives love and life. Maybe you’re someone who lived with a parent that used his or her approval or disapproval as a weapon to force you to behave in a way deemed acceptable. My heart breaks for you. No child should ever grow up in an environment where damaging psychological tools are used to exert control.

Now, this is probably obvious, but it’s still worth pointing out, that blaming and shaming don’t truly resolve any family problems. In healthy families, members talk realistically about their tensions and troubles. The emphasis, however, is always on,

“What can I do to help make things better?”

Maybe a family member has an annoying pattern of frequently making the others late. In a functional home this person is not called lazy and good-for-nothing. Instead the others ask,

“What can we do to help you get ready on time?”

They’re openly confronting the situation, but they’re not making blaming and shaming statements. And with this healthy approach, the problem person will be much more likely to improve.

Now let’s make a transition to the church, the larger family I’m concerned about. Do congregations ever manifest the dysfunctional trait of blaming and shaming? You’re laughing—at least on the inside—because you know the answer. Ever hear a comment like:

“As far as I’m concerned, the problem in this church is the choir. I can’t understand their words and they sound like a bunch of screech owls begging for their supper.”

Or,

“That new tile floor in the ladies room is an awful color. Why every time I walk in I think someone has lost her breakfast right there on the floor. I don’t know who’s making these decisions, but they obviously have no taste at all.”

Or,

“I don’t know about you, but if that preacher talks about her summer vacation in Hawaii one more time, I’m going to stand up and walk out. Doesn’t she know that in these tough times none of us can afford such a high-priced vacation?”

That’s enough. You get the idea. The problem is not a new one, by the way. Back in Numbers 14 the people of God got so frustrated with their spiritual leaders that they considered stoning them. Who were these incompetents so unqualified for their positions? Why Moses and Aaron, of course.

Did you notice the emotion-packed nature of those blaming and shaming statements? That’s the nature of blaming and shaming. Imagine the emotional intensity of words like these:

“Everybody knows the Christian Ed committee here is notorious for killing our volunteer teachers. They always do it. They’re power-hungry. That’s the problem. They’re not praying people. They don’t seek the mind of the Lord on these matters. They just like to make volunteers crawl.”

In the church we need to learn to recognize inflammatory statements like these. Very seldom are they completely true. Instead, be reminded that many people have developed the nasty habit of always accusing somebody else, of pointing an angry finger at the other guy or gal, of introducing emotionally charged statements into an already-difficult situation. And that’s because they haven’t learned to ask,

“What can I do to help make things better?”

Maybe certain board or committee members have been insensitive or acted sinfully. But have I prayed for them? Have I graciously confronted the issues through a carefully written letter? More importantly, back during the nominating process did I take the time to recommend Biblically qualified men and women to be nominated to serve on the board in the first place? Men and women who meet the detailed qualifications the Apostle Paul set forth in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

To return to the obvious point made earlier, blaming and shaming don’t resolve many problems. This destructive pattern just makes them worse. It’s a trait that characterizes dysfunctional church families, and unfortunately, it’s a common one.

What if you had to choose between being blamed or shamed? Which option would you select? Maybe it’s good to review one final time. In a home, blame sounds like this:

“The reason our family didn’t have a good Christmas is because you didn’t make enough money, so we couldn’t buy enough presents.”

Blame accuses. It’s always points the finger at the other person. It accepts no personal responsibility.

Shame goes one step further. It not only gets a target in sight, it locks on it. Now there’s no escaping. It’s only a matter of time before the victim is destroyed! Not only can the given person do no good, he or she is no good. The individual’s very personhood is attacked.

“You’ll never amount to anything!”

Or,

“The brain in your head must be the size of a pea!”

Or,

“If you don’t like this church anymore, why don’t you just leave?”

People bring dysfunctional family traits, such as blaming and shaming, into the family of God. It’s important that we recognize these characteristics for what they are so we can begin to break the cycle. Otherwise the best family in the world, the family of God, becomes dysfunctional. More specifically in this case, blaming and shaming become the norm in the church!

Parishioners point fingers of blame at pastors or elders or staff members or each other and say,

“Let’s face it, our church isn’t growing. Every week when Ed, our church chairman, reads our church motto from the lectern—‘Where joy and service abound’—I can’t help but think, Under Ed’s leadership there’s just too much joy and too little service!

Expressing such blaming-shaming comments, they lock on that issue, and to emphasize their point, add statements that, in reality, are shameful. They attack who the person is, so that before too long the person can do no good—at least in their eyes.

Congregation members blame ministers or leaders or staff members. Leaders blame ministers, congregation members, or staff. Staff members blame congregation members, leaders, or ministers. Ministers blame leaders, staff, or congregation members. The cycle of blame and shame can go around and around and around.

And with neither side assuming any responsibility for what it might do to make things better, how can the congregation ever become whole? As healthy families are on their guard against the blame-shame syndrome—they nip it in the bud—so healthy congregations are as well.

This doesn’t mean constructive criticism has no place in the church, or that people are allowed to say only “nice” things. It doesn’t mean ministers can’t preach about sin, or that nobody in the church will ever get angry or have their feelings hurt. It doesn’t mean there won’t be any misunderstandings in a congregation.

But thinking one person is the cause of everything that’s wrong—this is not good. Making insensitive remarks or talking behind someone’s back—that’s not good either. You shouldn’t be allowed to point an accusing finger at others and never ask yourself,

“What can I do to help make things better?”

What I’m saying in a sentence:

“Instead of the dysfunctional trait of blaming and shaming, healthy church families ask, ‘What can I do to help make things better?’”

Here’s an admonition. Sometimes you may find yourself on the receiving end of the blaming and shaming attack of another person or group of people within the church. Usually this will result when someone has a beef with you and refuses to follow the instructions Jesus gave in Matthew 18:15-17:

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

Instead of doing what Jesus instructs, this person, or group of people, attack you, maybe without giving you an opportunity to confront the charges against you. Your best action, if such a thing happens to you, is to walk away from those who blame or shame you. You have a responsibility to protect yourself from abuse. Let me assure you that God will always rise to your defense. In fact, His defense will be many times more powerful than anything you can do or say for yourself.

Likewise, situations do arise in a church where sin has crept in and the church becomes dysfunctional because of that sin. Confronting sin in a loving and caring way—always with the aim of restoring the sinner to full fellowship within the body of Christ—is a requirement for a healthy church. That’s why choosing spiritually mature leaders is so important. The church must not excuse sin. But, at the same time, in confronting the sin, the church must extend God-breathed love to the sinner. And, whenever confronting sin, without exception, Matthew 18:15-17 must be followed. In fact, if anyone in the church tries to deal with sin without following Matthew 18:15-17, that person—or group of persons—is in danger of sinning themselves. Take note of Galatians 6:1-2:

1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

In closing, I’d like to share a prayer with you. Let me suggest that you pray this prayer every day this week. It’s preventive maintenance, to remind you to avoid the blame-shame trap:

Father,
I know that no church is perfect, So help me not to be surprised when problems arise. Keep me from pointing a finger of blame at others; Guard my tongue from shameful remarks. Grant me the courage to do my part to make our church a better place. And thank You that—through the sacrifice of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ—You have graciously allowed me to be part of the best family in the world. Amen.

Praying that simple prayer can serve as a good reminder for you and for me to avoid blaming and shaming others, and to help us assume personal responsibility for what we can do to make things better.

The blame-shame syndrome is destructive. It always makes matters worse. It’s a characteristic of dysfunctional families. Conversely, when problems arise in healthy families, each member assumes responsibility for what he or she can do to make things better. May that be so in the church of Jesus Christ, the very best family of all.

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.

Father, I praise You for the tenderness of Your mercy. Your nature is not to point a harsh finger of blame, or to shame us when we sin. But You surprise us with Your kindness—and gently call us to Your better way.

Here in the quietness of this moment where we’ve come apart from the hustle and bustle of the world, we invite Your Holy Spirit to speak to us right now, as we wait before You.

Thank You, Father, for the promise of Your Presence to lead and guide us through the week ahead. And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


________________

Author’s Note: I am indebted to my spiritual mentor, Rev. Dr. David R. Mains, who many years ago preached a series of messages on his radio broadcast, The Chapel of the Air, entitled “The Dysfunctional Church Family.” One of those messages formed the basic foundation for this blog post.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Fruit of the Spirit

 

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

—The words of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23

 

Are you interested in knowing what qualities a Christian should exemplify? One of the early church fathers listed nine virtues that should characterize all the followers of Christ.

In alphabetical order, number one is faithfulness. It’s the idea of being trustworthy in your relationship with others and with God. “Fidelity” would be a synonym.

Number two is gentleness. Now that doesn’t refer to a tender, simpering, retreating young thing. The same word in Greek, the language in which this list was originally written long ago, is used for an animal that has been tamed. Gentleness in a person should be thought of as “strength that has been brought under proper control.”

The third quality is goodness. That means doing what is appropriate and right in God’s sight, even when it’s difficult to do so.

Very close to goodness, if I take one out of order, is number five, kindness, which is almost self-explanatory. Kindness is empathetic-sympathy which manifests itself in terms of specific actions.

We’ve jumped over a virtue in our alphabetical journey, so let’s go back and pick up number four, joy. Joy is deeper than happiness, which usually relates to one’s circumstances. Many years ago, Dr. Ronald K. Nasshan—now home with the Lord—told me that “Happiness is the quality of a child. But joy has a foundation of contentment reinforced by trust in the God who causes joy to spring forth from obedience.” Said another way, “When things are going well, I’m happy.” However, the joy of which the Apostle Paul writes is not dependent on surroundings. It’s very close to quality number 8—peace. Maybe I should differentiate between the two.

Peace has to do with an inner tranquility or calm. Joy is more a sense of deep contentedness or well-being, an inward singing which cannot be silenced by outward happenings. Model believers are to exemplify inner tranquility, or peace, and contentedness or joy.

That leaves only three more to define. Number six is love. We usually think of love in terms of feelings or emotions. But “agape” is primarily the idea of always seeking the best for another, or treating that other in a Christ-like fashion. Agape is an unconditional love.

It’s worth taking a moment here to explain that the New Testament Scriptures, largely written in the official language of learning at the time of the first century—that is the Greek language—actually has four distinct words for love. If you would like to read an elegant treatment of this phenomenon, I would commend to you C. S. Lewis’ book The Four Loves. As usual, Lewis has a masterful way of explaining the significance of these words. In any case, these four New Testament Greek words for love include:

  • phileo: that’s the bond of friendship between brothers and sisters, or business partners, or coworkers in a particular endeavor, with an emphasis on the word “bond.” Stronger than a casual connection, phileo, at least according to Aristotle, expresses itself generally in one of three ways as friendships of utility, friendships of pleasure, and friendships of the good. In the large majority of the cases, phileo is reciprocal and balanced between the two parties. Phileo—filial love—is the root from which we get “Philadelphia” also known as “The City of Brotherly Love.” Phileo is born from a sense of attachment or of an unbreakable bond.
  • storge: that’s affection—the love of a parent for a child or the kind of fondness that one feels toward someone that one likes more than casually. When I say, “I love Dennis Miller,” what I’m really saying is that I have great affection for Dennis Miller. Since I don’t really know the comedian Dennis Miller personally—I only know him through his daily radio show and weekly television appearances—I am basing my expressed feelings on observation and on what I imagine a genuine relationship with him might entail. Sometimes “storge” and “phileo” go hand-in-hand, such as with the feelings you might have toward a close friend. The amount of each type of love in any given relationship may rest on how close that friendship really is.
  • eros: that’s the intense physical desire or attraction—we get the word “erotic” from this Greek root. Though normally relegated to describing carnal relationships, some ancient writers use eros to describe a love of hopefulness for intimacy in the future, where actual carnal contact is set aside and the one consumed by eros simply immerses himself or herself in the pleasure of anticipated feeling.
  • agape: that’s God-breathed love. This last, this God-breathed love, holds such power. C. S. Lewis summarizes this as follows:
    “God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing—or should we say ‘seeing’? there are no tenses in God—the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is a ‘host’ who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and ‘take advantage of’ Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.”

You may wonder what part does love really play within a body of believers. Whenever we gather for worship, did we all end up together by chance? And do we have any responsibility with regard to loving one another? Here again is C. S. Lewis:

“But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends ‘You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.’ The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others. They are no greater than the beauties of a thousand other men; by Friendship God opens our eyes to them. They are, like all beauties, derived from Him through the Friendship itself, so that it is His instrument for creating as well as for revealing. At this feast it is He who has spread the board and it is He who has chosen the guests. It is He, we may dare to hope, who sometimes does, and always should, preside. Let us not reckon without our Host.”

So, the Greek language gives us much greater precision in saying, “I love you.” And the “love” we’re talking about in this instance—the sixth of the nine virtues—is the God-breathed kind.

Number seven in our list of virtues that define a truly obedient servant of Christ is patience. The late William Barclay, a noted Bible scholar, states that the most illuminating fact about this word is that it is commonly used in the New Testament to describe the attitude of God toward mankind.

“If God had been a man He would have wiped out this world long ago, but He has that patience which bears with sinning and will not just quickly cast us off.”

So, in our dealing with our fellowman we must reproduce this loving, forbearing, forgiving, patient attitude that God displays toward us.

We’ve already cover number eight, joy, so, finally, we come to number nine: self-control. This is the quality of not becoming victim to bad habits or vices. In 1 Corinthians 9:27 the Apostle Paul uses the same Greek word for self-control to describe an athlete’s discipline of his body:

27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

As you’ve probably noted, the words overlap some, and yet these nine cover a great range of virtues. The two verses of Scripture at the beginning of this blog post contain this list.

The Apostle Paul has been encouraging the people who comprise the church in Galatia to walk in the Spirit and not gratify the desires of the flesh. The result of this will be the fruit of the Spirit—“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

In our churches—in the relationships we form between brothers and sisters in Christ—do these qualities become an apparent force that guards the bond of love between us that Christ has forged with the shedding of His precious blood? Do you exhibit these essential qualities, these “Fruit of the Spirit” in your life? Do I exhibit them in mine?

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.

May the power of Your Holy Spirit so fill us that we become embued with these fruitful evidences of Your grace within us.

Thank You, Father, for the promise of Your Presence. And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

________________

Author’s Note: I am indebted to my spiritual mentor, Rev. Dr. David R. Mains, who some years ago preached a message on his radio broadcast, The Chapel of the Air, entitled “The Fruit of the Spirit.” That message formed the basic foundation for this blog post.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Love You Don’t Have To Earn

 

1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

—The words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:1-2

 

Back when you were growing up, did a doghouse exist in your family? No, not the one outside in the backyard for Fido, but a figurative doghouse that one of the family members always seemed to occupy?

Maybe your family had a favorite child, another who seemed usually in a more neutral spot, but also a son or daughter everyone knew regularly spent time in the doghouse. That child ended up in the doghouse for doing something bad or embarrassing. The withholding of love went along with putting a family member in that position. For example, a parent might not talk to the person for days ... or weeks ... or months! The family “doghouse” became an awful place for the person in it.

The existence of a family doghouse often indicates dysfunction in a home where parents and siblings extend love more on the basis of performance than simply extending love consistently, persistently, and unconditionally. The unstated rule is, “Please me, and you’ll earn my love. Go contrary to my expectations, however, and you’ll know my displeasure!”

Naturally, I hope that you to whom God has given the privilege of being parents have never treated any of your children so badly by withholding your love because they didn’t behave the way you expected. I also pray that in the family of God, in the church, we never make our brothers and sisters in the Lord—spiritual sons and daughters—experience the pain of feeling unloved just because they don’t perform up to our expectations. If there’s anything that should characterize the family of God, it is unconditional love—the kind of love our heavenly Father consistently and persistently extends to us.

In the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, the Apostle Paul refers to us as “dearly loved children” of God. God consistently and persistently extends His unconditional love to us every single day.

A word of clarification: The fact that God consistently and persistently loves us unconditionally doesn’t mean He makes excuses for our wrongdoing. But be aware that while He calls us to walk His better way, He doesn’t stop loving us when we stumble or fall. God loves us so much and so completely that He has invested the very life of His own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to grant us forgiveness for our sins. And, because God loves us unconditionally, we can extend the same kind of love to our church family. We can say to others,

I accept you and love you for who you are. You don’t have to conform to my standards. But in this family we also want Christ to teach us to become more like Him. We encourage each other in this regard ... sometimes with tough love, love that confronts ... but that’s still love. In this special family, love is never withheld. At least, it’s not supposed to be.

What a difference there would be if the Church were made up of men and women and boys and girls who extended love the way Christ did! In a sentence, what I’m striving to share with you today goes something like this: “Because God loves us unconditionally, we can consistently and persistently extend the same kind of love to all in our church family.”

Let me suggest you set aside time this week to formulate your own list of people in the church to whom you have difficulty in consistently and persistently extending Christ-like love. Once you have your list, pray for each person. Ask God to enable you, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to consistently and persistently show His unconditional love to that one.

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 praise You for Your unconditional love. You take great pleasure, great joy, great delight in Your children. We don’t have to earn Your love. We praise You that we have been made acceptable to You through Christ’s ultimate act of love on the cross.

Precious Father, we invite Your Holy Spirit to speak to us right now, as we wait silently before You.

Thank You, Father, for the promise of Your Presence to lead and guide us through the week ahead. And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

________________

Author’s Note: I am indebted to my spiritual mentor, Rev. Dr. David R. Mains, who many years ago preached a series of messages on his radio broadcast, The Chapel of the Air, entitled “The Dysfunctional Church Family.” One of those messages formed the basic foundation for this blog post.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

With All My Heart

 

1 I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart;
   I will tell of all your wonders.
2 I will be glad and rejoice in you;
   I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

—The words from King David in Psalm 9:1-2

 

Giving praise to God—that’s the answer to almost every problem in life. King David has certainly given us a godly example in the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post. Whenever we find ourselves mired down in the circumstances of life, we can praise God for His goodness, mercy, grace, and love.

Nearly forty years ago, Max and Lucy Mace and the Heritage Singers recorded a song of praise that clearly expresses the confidence we can place in the loving God who patiently waits to receive our praise.

 

 

Today, let’s lift our voices in praise to God. He surely is worthy of our praise.

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.

Precious Father, You have filled our hearts with Your love. Therefore, our hearts burst forth with praise. You are our God. You are our Lord. With hearts, and souls, and voices we praise Your precious and holy name!

We thank You, Precious Father, that you have given us minds and hearts and voices to praise You. May our offering of praise rise to You as a sweet smelling incense. May the angels that surround Your throne echo a chorus of our praise to You. Thank You for hearing our praise and our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Consider the Heavens

 

1 O Lord, our Lord,
         how majestic is your name in all the earth!

   You have set your glory
         above the heavens.
2 From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise
         because of your enemies,
         to silence the foe and the avenger.

3 When I consider your heavens,
         the work of your fingers,
         the moon and the stars,
         which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
         the son of man that you care for him?
5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
         and crowned him with glory and honor.

6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
         you put everything under his feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
         and the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air,
         and the fish of the sea,
         all that swim the paths of the seas.

9 O Lord, our Lord,
         how majestic is your name in all the earth!

—The words from King David in Psalm 8:1-9

 

Looking for stability in your life? I’m not surprised. It seems that more and more these days life has a chaotic quality to it.

I can’t remember any time in my life when the discourse seems as rancorous and downright nasty as it does now. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s the world of business, or entertainment, or politics, or the church. A spirit of nastiness seems to prevail almost everywhere.

I used to think that McDonald’s was the one place where you could always get a smile. But the particular McDonald’s that I visit most frequently has remodeled and instituted a very confusing drive-thru.

One lane alongside the building breaks into two lines for ordering. The problem is that some people sit poised where the line of cars divides waiting to see which ordering station will move along faster. Because they don’t deliberately queue up, they tend to slow down the ordering process. Add to that, some people come breezing in to the parking lot, drive past all those in line, and jump in to the outside ordering station while another customer hangs back as described above.

Tempers flare. Horns honk. Just yesterday one irate customer stormed out of her car and proceeded to pound on the roof of the car that had sped past her car to grab that outside ordering spot while she had hung back waiting to see which line would move faster.

Looking back over the life of King David, from the time he was a shepherd boy until the day of his death, I can see that he had a lot chaos in his life. Of course, he caused one of the more significant times of chaos—his affair with Bathsheba. But, for most of the rest of his life, David was on the receiving end of chaos caused by others. Is it any wonder that King David turned his gaze heavenward.

The Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post is one of the more familiar Davidic Psalms. In this Psalm, David praises God for His stability. Alas, that’s exactly what we need in our chaotic world: the stability of a God who loves us.

I don’t know what you’re going to do to cope with the chaos in your life, but I’m going to take King David’s advice and consider the heavens.

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.

Precious Father, we bow before you in humility and gratitude. We have considered the heavens. We have clearly seen the work of Your hands. We know that You love us with Your everlasting love. Our hearts well up and overflow with gratitude for all that You are and all that You have done for us.

We thank You, Precious Father, that, especially in the midst of the chaos of this life, You are the One who controls every aspect of our lives. We choose to rest in Your mercy and grace. And, we thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Be Glad!

 

11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
         let them ever sing for joy.
    Spread your protection over them,
         that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
12 For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous;
         you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

—The words from King David in Psalm 5:11-12

 

When we’re under attack from people who have deliberately chosen to make us their enemies, we often forget that such people are not alone in their assault on us. Though most people seem quite uncomfortable confronting the reality that we live in a world where the forces of darkness are actively at war with the forces of Light, the truth remains that this is so.

When people attack us with harsh words, and particularly with lies about us, they have joined the real enemy—Satan and his minions. Is it any wonder that under such an assault it’s hard for us to retain our joy.

If the attacks against us came openly and directly—in our face, if you will—it would be easier to identify what’s really happening. But, all too often, the attack is subtle and comes at us from behind our backs. Many times we don’t even find out the lies that people are spreading about us until they reach the ears of someone who has the integrity to report the lies to us.

You see, it takes courage for someone who disagrees with us to speak directly to us. Few people have that kind of courage. It’s far easier to sneak around and spread lies under the cover of darkness. Even people that you might think would have the spiritual fortitude to directly deal with an issue over which they have concerns will often take a coward’s way out and not speak directly to us. That’s just the kind of mindset in which the real enemy delights.

Satan and his minions are truly very clever. And don’ forget their attack is quite subtle. They work in the minutiae of life. You can get a good idea of what this is like from reading C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. Here’s a sample as Screwtape, a much more experienced minion of Satan, writes to a younger, more inexperienced demon named Wormwood who has been assigned a particular male human subject who he is to tempt and destroy.

One word of caution, as you read, keep in mind that Screwtape has our real world turned upside down. The things Screwtape calls “good” are to us evil and vice versa. When Screwtape’s writes about “The Enemy,” he’s talking about the very God we serve. When Screwtape writes about “Our Father’s House,” he’s talking about Satan and hell. So, here’s Screwtape writing to Wormwood about the assigned human male subject:

Remember, he is not, like you, a pure spirit. Never having been a human (Oh that abominable advantage of the Enemy’s!) you don’t realize how enslaved they are to the pressure of the ordinary.

I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment. Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years’ work beginning to totter. If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defense by argument I should have been undone. But I was not such a fool.

I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch. The Enemy presumably made the counter-suggestion (you know how one can never quite overhear what He says to them?) that this was more important than lunch. At least I think that must have been His line for when I said “Quite. In fact much too important to tackle at the end of a morning,” the patient brightened up considerably; and by the time I had added “Much better come back after lunch and go into it with a fresh mind,” he was already half way to the door.

Once he was in the street the battle was won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man’s head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of “real life” (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all “that sort of thing” just couldn’t be true.

He knew he’d had a narrow escape and in later years was fond of talking about “that inarticulate sense for actuality which is our ultimate safeguard against the aberrations of mere logic.”

He is now safe in Our Father’s house.

Quite interesting, don’t you think? King David talks about the genuine antidote to such attacks in the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post.

David expresses that taking refuge in God produces joy. That applies to us. We are to rejoice in the God of the Universe. Because He has chosen us to belong to him, we have every reason to rejoice in Him. In fact, David urges us to be glad. Have you every thought about what that might mean: being glad?

“Be glad!” It sounds very much like a choice to me. “You mean I can choose to be glad?” Yes! I think you can...we can. After all, we have lots of reasons to be glad. Even in the face of lies and other attacks from those who have chosen to make themselves our enemies, both supernatural and natural, we can choose to be glad.

Let me suggest you think about that concept today—the idea of choosing to be glad. To help you do so, here’s a song by Michael Kelly Blanchard sung by tenor artist Scott Smith that I hope will inspire you all through this day:

 

 

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.

Holy Spirit, we invite you to fill us full of Your gladness. We desire to be glad. We know that Your joy will overcome any attack that comes our way. So we consciously and willfully choose to be glad.

We thank You, Precious Father, that You are the author of gladness. And, we thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

“Alleluia, Christ is Risen!”

 

1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” 8 Then they remembered his words.

—The words from the Gospel: Luke 24:1-8

 

It’s Easter morning—Sunday, April 8, 2012. Just as on every Easter morning down through the past 2,000 years Christians lift their voices in praise shouting to one another, “The Lord is risen! He is risen, indeed!”

The jubiliation comes from deep within the hearts of those who see a glimmer of the significance of the great victory the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished through His death on that cruel cross at Calvary and through His resurrection from the dead. Our sins are forgiven. He has covered them with His own precious blood. We have victory over death through the power of His ressurrection.

Bill Batstone has written a powerful song of Easter praise. Join me, won’t you in listening to this splendid rendition by tenor artist Scott Smith:

 

 

If you have not yet experienced the joy of acknowledging God’s gift to you of eternal salvation through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, I invite to you click here and read how you can take that vitally important step of faith.

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.

As we celebrate this Easter morning, Precious Father, we clearly recognize how fortunate we are that before the foundation of the earth You chose us to belong to You and adopted us into Your Kingdom. You have called us to Youself through the wooing of Your Holy Spirit. Even as we have bowed our knees in fealty to the Great King, You have cleansed us from our sins by plunging us into the saving pool of Jesus’ precious blood. With praise on our lips and joy in our hearts we rest securely in the protective covering of Your love.

We thank You that we can celebrate Christ’s victory over sin, death, and Satan. And, we thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

“You Destroy Those Who Tell Lies”

 

4 You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil;
      with you the wicked cannot dwell.
5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence;
      you hate all who do wrong.
6 You destroy those who tell lies;
      bloodthirsty and deceitful men
      the LORD abhors.

—The words of King David from Psalm 5:4-6

 

“Sometimes, when I read the Old Testament, the words make me shiver.”

I understand the sentiment this person expresses. Do you? It seems that the somewhat primitive war-like cultures of the early civilizations on this earth created an enviroment where a lot of time was given over to strife.

I suspect that the truth is that today’s really not that much different. We’ve just become all too used to the presence of consuming evil.

In the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, King David acknowledges a quality of God that remains true. God does not take pleasure in evil. God does not cause evil. He does not sustain evil. He does not appreciate evil. He does not commend evil. He does not enjoy evil. In fact, God stands as the absolute antithesis to evil.

David goes on to acknowledge that God is the God of Justice. He does not tolerate lies. In fact, God destroys those who tells lies. David calls such liars “bloodthirsty and deceitful men.”

In your life, do you have any liars? I do. In fact, on almost a weekly basis I receive a phone call from someone reporting yet another lie that some person has told about me. Now granted, I am going through a period of time where I am standing in the gap while a battle for the minds and hearts of God’s people rages around me. As I have reported in numerous previous blog posts, the church which I have attended for over ten years is currently embroiled in a horrendously nasty and divisive fight. Part of the fallout from this heartbreaking “battle” is the fact that a lot of lies continue swirling around the core of the problems that led to this dysfunction.

David certainly lived at a time where every aspect of his being was attacked by lies. Those individuals who had purposefully chosen to make David their enemy used such lies as a principal means of attacking him. They wanted to discredit David and dishonor God’s annointing.

As I have suggested in a previous blog, David makes a conscious choice to leave the resolution of the matter in God’s hands. Part of the reason David can do this is because he knows that with God “the wicked cannot dwell.” And likewise, “the arrogant cannot stand” in God’s presence.

If you are under attack—or, if you are standing in the gap watching those around you engage in a battle—let God fight in your behalf. He will always respond to the attacks against you with your best interest in mind. And, you can trust Him because He will “destroy those who tell lies.”

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.

Precious Father, we consciously choose to release the strife that swirls around us into Your loving care. We acknowledge that You will protect and keep us. By the power of Your Holy Spirit, You will destroy those who tell lies about us. You will enable us to remain above the fray and to rest securely in the protective covering of Your love.

We thank You that You make provision for us to live in safety and security and willingly grant us a strong sense of Your presence and Your peace. And, we thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Our Sure Defense

 

8 Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
      because of my enemies—
      make straight your way before me.

—The words of King David from Psalm 5:8

 

Have you ever become the target of a whispering campaign? Oh, yes. I know it sounds a bit like a question for junior high or middle school. If you keep up with social networking news, you already know that the modern version of the whispering campaign has flooded the worlds of Facebook and Twitter. Why almost every week the media reports some young teen who has taken his or her own life because of a whispering campaign supercharged by social media.

Sadly, whispering campaigns exist in the adult world, too. And they don’t just focus on relatively trival matters. Sometimes they involve accusations that cut to the heart of an individual’s motivation, beliefs, trustworthiness, or character.

In the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, King David had become the subject of a whispering campaign. As one annointed of God and embued with great power, David—as gentle as he was most of the time—had many people who turned against him. Whether motivated by jealousy or some other sinful trait, these people chose to make David their enemy. Notice I said that they chose to make David their enemy. The enemy-making was not David’s doing. He was the victim, not the perpetrator.

In choosing to make David their enemy, these individuals began to spread lies about David. They took his acts of generosity and kindness and ascribed sinful-sounding motives to explain his actions. They lied about the legitimacy of his annointing. They questioned virtually every aspect of his being. They distorted his plans for Israel. In short, they did everything they could—principally relying on lies and distortions— to turn other people against David and destroy him.

In the midst of this turmoil swirling around him, David reaches out in prayer to the very God of the Universe who has annointed him with authority and power. David humbles himself before the God he serves and asks God to “Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies.”

Instead of trying to change his personality or alter his behavior or compromise his values and beliefs in order to cater to the whims of those telling lies about him, David doubles down by choosing to rely on God as his sure defense. David asks God for a clear pathway to follow.

We know, of course, that God answered David’s cry for help. God not only blesses David, God doubly and triply blesses him. Instead of seeing David diminish in the face of their lies and distortions, the people who have chosen to make David their enemy see David lifted even higher, embued with even greater power, and given success way beyond the initial success that so irritated these people that they tried to destroy David.

The lesson here for us: when people choose to make themselves our enemy, instead of trying to mitigate any aspect of who we are that causes them to hate us, we need to turn to God and ask Him to give us a straight path to follow. God willingly grants us our sure defense. He insulates us from the power of those lies told by the very people who have chosen to make us their enemies. While we continue to allow God to love them through us, and while we pray for them, we need to let God defend us against their attacks.

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.

Precious Father, we bow before You in gratitude that You are our sure defense. You are the One who will grant us victory over those people who have chosen to make themselves our enemies. Even as you enable us, by Your Holy Spirit, to love these ones who have spoken lies and distortions about us, we pray for them and ask You to draw them to Yourself.

We thank You that You gladly lead us in the pathway of righteousness for the sake of Your Great Name. And, we thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2012 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.