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Walking and Rejoicing in the Lord is the Priority

Sections of church history are like sections of the Old Testament.  While there are glorious moments, there are many periods where people just plain messed up!  In the previous post, Part of the Good News is Bad News, I include an appendix that lists 40 verses where the people “did evil in the sight of the Lord” that illustrates how common that behavior was.  These verses are included for our learning:

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Rom 15:4 ESV)

I want to look at the verses after that:

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, (Rom 15:5-8 ESV)

Look at the words here:  endurance, encouragement, harmony, accord, glory!  The point of looking at what is past and being instructed by it is to have these great qualities in our lives!

Despite what may have happened in the past we are charged to:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, (Gal 5:16 ESV)

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph 5:2 ESV)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Rom 15:13 ESV)

For all the incredible power and tremendous spiritual qualities we see in the first believers they were living in a dangerous world with a knowledge of how believers in the past had erred.

So the charge is still the same for us.  We need to learn from the past while we walk in the spirit, in love, filled with joy and peace in believing, abounding in hope!

So, if the material gets to where you can’t do that, stop looking at it. I don’t believe that everyone is called to do the same thing at the same time.

The analogy that we are given by the Apostle Paul is that we are different parts of the same body.  Some are hands, some are legs, some are eyes, some are kidneys, livers, and lungs.  In other words they are different parts doing different things to help the body.  These functions are things they were made to do, their calling, if you will.  If the eye says it wants to be a lung, how does that work?

Likewise, in the body, we are called to different functions in the body.  While all can share the word, some are called to be teachers and apostles.  These offices are called to share the word to a degree way beyond the rest of us believers.  That doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t share the word, we just don’t do it to the degree that teachers and apostles do.

I don’t know that everyone is called to study original Christianity and church history in the depth that I feel called to.  There is a way that it grounds me.  It is something that I feel called to do, and I feel the leading of the spirit in it.

Look at where the spirit leads you to grow, and to increase in the fruit of the spirit.   Remember that the priority is that we walk and rejoice in the Lord.

January 13th, 2019 Posted by | Basic Christianity | no comments

Part of the Good News is Bad News

In the previous post 03.8.2 The Sanitizing of the Writings of the Church Fathers I wrote about the sad state of affairs where the Roman Catholic Church made it the law of the land where Christians persecuted and even killed heretics and burned their writings.  As a result the record of what happened after the book of Acts is incomplete.

Some people criticize this kind of writing as critical and negative.  But it is not unlike the Bible in places. The bible is full of references to actions and times where the people were not in God’s will.  For example, the phrase “did evil in the sight of the Lord” is listed in 40 verses in the appendix below. Think about the story of the flood where all men were so evil that all were killed except those on the ark. How many years were the Israelites in captivity because they had stubbornly gone a way different than the one the Lord directed?   Even David, a man after God’s own heart had Bathsheba’s husband killed because he had adultery with her. Other godly men made mistakes that were reported like Jonah, a prophet swallowed by a whale for refusing to give the word that the Lord had directed him to deliver.

The Word of God is the story of the deliverance of man by Jesus Christ.  But, as it says in Timothy,  it is useful not just for doctrine, but also for reproof, and correction.  Without the stories of sin and wayward lives we would not be equipped to recognize when reproof and correction are needed.

Without being stated it appears that many church histories, especially Catholic ones, teach church history from the perspective that the church is in the will of God always or with very few deviations.

Where do you start in Christian history with ungodly practices: Rome’s declaration that it’s bishop is over all others, mandatory celibacy of priests, the inquisition, the crusades, selling of indulgences and church offices, homosexual practices among some church elite (where are they honoring clerical chastity or are only local clergy supposed to honor the vow?) in the Vatican[i], the current crisis about pedophilia in the clergy and the cover-up?  Protestant churches are not above reproach.  There were protestants that killed people (heretics) in the name of Christ, the Lutherans and other denominations  engaged in war also perhaps just in self defence, but still we have vast periods of time where Christians are warring with each other.  One record says that the 30 Years’ war between the Catholics and the Lutherans killed one third of the population of Germany

So yes , we want to celebrate the countless good works of believers where Christians aided the sick, fed the poor, and spread the good news. We want to celebrate the abundant life that Jesus made available, and the power of God in people’s lives.  We rejoice wherever we see the love of God in actions.  But just like the Old Testament records there are times since Pentecost when the believers “did evil in the sight of Lord” and we need to learn to recognize those.

We won the war when Jesus died for us on the cross, but there is still a war going on.  The New Testament is full of warfare analogies:

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (2Co 10:3-5 ESV)

Recognizing where believers including ourselves are off track is important to waging the war righteously and growing in the Lord.

 

Appendix

Verses with “did evil in the sight of the Lord”

Jdg_2:11  And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals.

Jdg_3:7  And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.

Jdg_3:12  And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done what was evil in the sight of the LORD.

Jdg_4:1  And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD after Ehud died.

Jdg_6:1  The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD gave them into the hand of Midian seven years.

Jdg_10:6  The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the LORD and did not serve him.

Jdg_13:1  And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, so the LORD gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.

1Sa_15:19  Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the LORD?”

1Ki_11:6  So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done.

1Ki_14:22  And Judah did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins that they committed, more than all that their fathers had done.

1Ki_15:26  He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin which he made Israel to sin.

1Ki_15:34  He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of Jeroboam and in his sin which he made Israel to sin.

1Ki_16:25  Omri did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did more evil than all who were before him.

1Ki_22:52  He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.

2Ki_3:2  He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, though not like his father and mother, for he put away the pillar of Baal that his father had made.

2Ki_8:18  And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for the daughter of Ahab was his wife. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.

2Ki_8:27  He also walked in the way of the house of Ahab and did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as the house of Ahab had done, for he was son-in-law to the house of Ahab.

2Ki_13:2  He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin; he did not depart from them.

2Ki_13:11  He also did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin, but he walked in them.

2Ki_14:24  And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

2Ki_15:9  And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as his fathers had done. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

2Ki_15:18  And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart all his days from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

2Ki_15:24  And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

2Ki_15:28  And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

2Ki_17:2  And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, yet not as the kings of Israel who were before him.

2Ki_21:2  And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.

2Ki_21:16  Moreover, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides the sin that he made Judah to sin so that they did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.

2Ki_21:20  And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as Manasseh his father had done.

2Ki_23:32  And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done.

2Ki_23:37  And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done.

2Ki_24:9  And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father had done.

2Ki_24:19  And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done.

2Ch_21:6  And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for the daughter of Ahab was his wife. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.

2Ch_22:4  He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as the house of Ahab had done. For after the death of his father they were his counselors, to his undoing.

2Ch_33:2  And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.

2Ch_33:22  And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as Manasseh his father had done. Amon sacrificed to all the images that Manasseh his father had made, and served them.

2Ch_36:5  Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD his God.

2Ch_36:9  Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.

2Ch_36:12  He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD his God. He did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the LORD.

Jer_52:2  And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done.

 

 

[i] https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2013/12/gay-clergy-catholic-church-vatican

January 5th, 2019 Posted by | Basic Christianity | no comments

Apologies and Restitution

We have all seen the following scenario:  little Joey and Tommy are playing in the playground. Joey starts hitting Tommy. Joey’s mom comes over and separates the boys and tells little Joey that he needs to say I’m sorry. Little Joey doesn’t want to say I’m sorry, but after a while reluctantly agrees, and mutters a begrudging “I’m sorry”.  Now that she’s gotten an apology from Joey for Tommy the stressed mama makes sure the boys are still separate, and backs off.  However, in a few minutes, the incident starts again, maybe this time it’s Tommy hitting Joey, or it could just as well be Joey hitting Tommy again. We’ve all seen it.

First of all, we want to acknowledge that mom is doing a good thing in getting her son to apologize.  But my question is did the mother really do everything she could to help the situation. Well, if all she wants to do is teach the principle of saying “I’m sorry” after an injustice, then yes she did.  But if she wants to teach her child to build relationships then there certainly is a lot more work to be done here.

While we’re on the topic, the above example is young children but it seems many adults follow the same principle. In that principle all that you ever have to do is apologize, i.e., say “I’m sorry”.

The problem is that just saying “I’m sorry” does not: number one, restore the relationship to a healthy state, and number two, fulfill the guidance that the Bible has provided throughout the ages.

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luk 19:1-10 ESV)

Zacchaeus was a rich tax collector, because of that he was not popular. But our Lord praised him, both by staying at his house, and also with his words.  The principle that this section brings out is the principle of restitution. If Zacchaeus defrauded someone he restored him fourfold.  That means if Zacchaeus wrongly took a thousand dollars from someone, he gave them four thousand to correct the situation.

Now, before I go too much further, I do want to say a word about restitution and the law. I have heard it argued that Christians don’t need to make restitution because they are not under the law, and it was the law that required restitution. But I say to you, that not all things in the law are limited to being only part of the law. For example, the law made exact provisions for honoring the principle of resting on the Sabbath, and because of that, some people say resting on the Sabbath is part of the law so we don’t have to do that. But I say to you, that God rested on the seventh day of creation before there was ever a law and so set the example that a day of rest is an eternal principle that is not limited to the law. Likewise, the Law was full of offerings, but we see in the first chapters of Genesis in the story of Cain and Abel the principle of offerings to the Lord and that they should be worthy of being an  offering.  Giving to God, making an offering, is a universal principle outside the confines of the law, So, likewise, is the principle of restitution: when someone has harmed someone or caused them loss, in order to restore the relationship, the person’s loss needs to be paid back as closely as possible. And if you look at the examples in the Bible of restitution, what is paid back is most often more than what was lost.  Zacchaeus above paid fourfold.   There are varying amounts in the law:

“If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him, but if the sun has risen on him, there shall be bloodguilt for him. He shall surely pay. If he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. If the stolen beast is found alive in his possession, whether it is an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double. “If a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed over, or lets his beast loose and it feeds in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best in his own field and in his own vineyard. “If fire breaks out and catches in thorns so that the stacked grain or the standing grain or the field is consumed, he who started the fire shall make full restitution. “If a man gives to his neighbor money or goods to keep safe, and it is stolen from the man’s house, then, if the thief is found, he shall pay double.(Exo 22:1-7 ESV)

The above section call for “full restitution”, double, fourfold and fivefold restitution in varying cases.  Those amounts were under the law which no longer binds us.  But the examples of restitution show that the person is generous in making restitution.

Restitution shows the goodwill of the restorer. The person making restitution wants the injured party to feel good about their relationship again.

The Empty Apology

The complete opposite of restitution is the empty apology. The empty apology goes like this; Frank and Mary worked in the same shop. Frank goes into the refrigerator and eats Mary’s sandwich. Mary finds out that it was Frank that ate the sandwich and Frank says “I’m sorry.”  Mary is a generous person, and since  this the first time this has happened she says okay and walks away. But a few days later Frank is hungry again, and sees Mary’s sandwich in the refrigerator and eats it.   Mary again finds out that it’s Frank but Frank is quick to apologize again, and says I’m sorry. Mary is a little troubled but forgives again. Then it happened the third time.  Mary is now upset with Frank. She tries to talk with him but his response is “I said I’m sorry!”  The words “I’m sorry” imply that there were feelings of remorse, and consequently, that the infraction would not be repeated. Clearly Frank does not have that understanding. Rather, Frank appears to have the understanding that you can do anything you want and the only price you’ll ever have to pay are two words, “I’m sorry.” Frank’s apology is empty.

The example of eating a sandwich may not relate to you.  The example could be 1 of a million other things, someone not sharing in the chores, a family member spending more than their share of family funds on fun items, not cleaning up messes, and those are just light examples.   How about more serious ones like mates flirting with other people, mates cheating with other people,  getting into fights, staying out drinking, or taking someone’s car without permission.  There are a  million issues that come up between people, the list goes on and on, i.e., always making you late, or always making you wait, etc. etc. etc.

And there are a ton of excuses; “I forgot” being maybe the biggest.  “I forgot”, “it didn’t seem important”, “I couldn’t help myself”, “I got too busy” all show a lack of care for the person you say this to.  “I didn’t agree with you”, “I’m not going to do that”, or even “you’re crazy if you think I’m going to do that”  are inflamatory words that will increase the conflict.  (Certainly there are times when someone has unreasonable expectations but I’m not talking about those.  I have given examples of clear infractions here starting with Joey hitting Tommy.)

The point is that the words “I’m sorry” are empty if they are not followed by action. Of course we are encouraged to forgive one another knowing that God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us. And we certainly want to teach our kids to forgive as well as practice it ourselves.   But we are also to be wise as serpents. And when we see someone constantly violating, constantly performing some grievance, we are not going to feel loved, or possibly even safe in that relationship.

Restitution

So what does it take to restore a relationship? If you make a mess, you clean it up, whether it’s your stuff or not. If a little child takes a toy from another child they should at least let the other child pick one of theirs that they can play with for a while. The point is that the other child needs to feel the love.

Sometimes to restore a relationship you offer something the other person wants. If the person you offended already cleaned up the mess you made perhaps there’s a gift you can give them along with the reassurance that in the future you’ll clean up the mess. If you destroy someone’s clothes you buy them clothes as nice or nicer than that you destroyed.  Or if you’re always making someone late maybe you can do the seemingly impossible and start being ready before the other person so that they can see the you are genuinely committed to being on time.

In a fight sometimes both parties need to make restitution.  Maybe the other person started it but you allowed yourself to heap false accusations and false motives on the other person.  At the very least you need to acknowledge that your words were not true and express the good characteristics that the other person has but that you maligned.

Restitution is not some legal principle of the law of the Old Testament that was only enacted by a tough God in that tough set of precepts called the Law.  Restitution is the principle used of by loving people to restore love to the relationship.

So both in parenting and in our own lives we need to teach and practice apologies with restitution as part of the system of restoring relationships and not as a way to say a quick “I’m sorry” and exonerate ourselves as we continue to act selfishly.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

 

 

 

August 15th, 2018 Posted by | Basic Christianity | no comments