Righteous One

In “Jesus Through Middle-Eastern Eyes”, there’s a great section about hungering and thirsting after righteousness and what righteousness actually is. The author, Kenneth E. Bailey, makes the point that righteousness isn’t a quest for perfection; it’s not just adhering to the Law, but it’s treating others the way God’s always treated His people – with kindness and compassion.

The ultimate Righteous One is Jesus, and His ultimate act of kindness and compassion happened on a cross outside the city of Jerusalem. “Father, forgive them,” He said of those crucifying Him, and you don’t get kinder than that. Jesus took the punishment we deserved so we wouldn’t have to, and you can’t get more compassionate than that. “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

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Anger

“A gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). Apparently this works not only for humans, but for cats too.

When I thought about diffusing anger, my first answer was gentleness, but Paul gives some other ideas: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32). Did you see his strategy? Kindness and forgiveness. Conversely, that means when anger is present, there are unkindness and unforgiveness going on. How true! When I’ve been angry, I haven’t been very forgiving. You tend to look for the worst in someone – not the best.

One thing that’s helped with my anger (and I’ve only learnt this the last few years) has been first to think how my action’s going to affect other people. If I leap up in the middle of a meeting and storm out, for example, someone will probably follow to see if I’m all right, causing them to miss the meeting too. I suppose the reason this thinking helps is that instead of being angry, there I am doing the opposite – being kind.

You must have your own anger stories. Maybe you acted unwisely, like I have in the past, or maybe you handled it well. Perhaps you’ve been hurt by someone else’s bad reaction. Perhaps kindness and forgiveness really are the way to go.

For the rest of this series click here, or you can find other blogs on the Write31Days site

Condemnation

I heard on the radio last night there is actually a word, ohnosecond. It’s that moment when you realise you’ve just done something you really shouldn’t have done. I know I feel terrible if I’ve acted out-of-character and think I’ve misrepresented God, but that feeling can’t last long. If it did, I wouldn’t do anything positive ever again. Paul agrees that worldly sorrow brings death, whereas Godly sorrow produces repentance. Repentance means turning from what you’ve done wrong and living the right way.

When that ohnosecond comes, there are three things we can do:
1. Say sorry, but not really mean it. John the Baptist saw this when he was preparing the way for Jesus. He cut to the chase and said: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” In other words, if you’ve truly repented, your actions need to match your words.

2. Drown in our own guilt. Judas Iscariot chose this option. When he betrayed Jesus, Jesus called him ‘Friend’ (Matthew 26:50), which says to me that Jesus’ friendship was still on offer. Judas didn’t take it, but hanged himself instead.

3. Turn to God and confess our wrongdoing. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).

For the rest of this series click here, or you can find other blogs on the Write31Days site

Absolutely Stunning: “Forgiven” Book-Review

(Interrupting my Write31Days just briefly to tell you about this book. When I signed up to review it for Bethany House, I really hoped I’d be selected, and they obliged by giving me a free copy.)

Terri’s autobiographical account of how a tragic school shooting rocked her family is a compelling one. She has you right from the prologue, and more than once, she’ll use a chapter’s final sentence to give a teaser about the next one. Great writing.

“Forgiven” is an apt title. This is the best book on forgiveness I’ve ever read, and if you want to learn more about Terri’s family, you can find her daughter-in-law’s story in “One Light Still Shines”. While it’s impossible to imagine how I would respond in Terri’s situation, I feel honoured that she would take readers on her own journey. Terri says, “Survival is not the only word starting with S.” She writes about surrender, but I can think of a third one: Terri shone through the pages of her story. It was an inspiration to read.

31 Jesus-Benefits: I can Stay Intact

“Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).

Yesterday, we looked at God’s forgiveness. Today I want to expand that to:

The way He’s taught me to forgive others and myself.

If you’ve lived on this earth for any length of time, you will have been hurt or disappointed. Forgiving someone may not keep your relationship intact; they’ve got to receive the forgiveness for that to happen, but it’ll certainly keep you intact. It’ll deal with the anger and bitterness you feel. You may have those feelings more than once and have to keep offering the situation to God in prayer, but He’ll be so pleased every time you bring it to Him.

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).

31 Jesus-Benefits: Out with the Old

“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (Psalm 32:1).

Day 2 of my Write31Days, and pretty close to the top of my list – of course it has to be:

The forgiveness God offers to us.

The night God first let me know where I stood with Him, I was envious because my younger sister was having driving lessons. When I told people my story afterwards, some would say: “Well, you can’t see. That’s only natural,” but just because it’s natural doesn’t make it right. So many will try to tell you you’re ok; you’re basically a good person, but the truth is, our old selves can’t stand before God. We’re walking down the wrong path and need someone to save us. We need Jesus to come along and make those wrong things in our lives disappear.

“Listen, if your hand is on the plow but your eyes are looking backward, then you’re not fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

Tuesday at Ten: Gather

I enjoy these link-ups where I can join with other bloggers and just write. Tuesday at Ten is Karen’s first link-up, so I hope she gets a good amount of support. Similar to Five Minute Friday, the prompt word goes live at 10 pm Eastern (that’s 3 am Wednesday here in the UK, so I’m glad she’s giving us 24 hours to make our contributions!). This week’s prompt is: Gather.
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I’ve read Psalm 2 recently. It seems appropriate with all that’s going on at the moment in this world. It talks about people gathering together against the LORD (doesn’t that remind you of the situation in Iraq?), and yet the Psalm isn’t full of doom and gloom. No – what I love is its picture of God in all this. “The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the LORD scoffs at them.”

Do I mean that God laughs at tragedy? Well, I can’t imagine that of a loving and compassionate God. If I want to gather those Iraqi children in my arms and protect them, surely God wants that even more. In fact, the Bible says He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart (Isaiah 40:11).

So here’s what I love about that picture of God:
I love that He’s enthroned in heaven. Whatever might be going on in the world or in your own life, whatever might be spiralling out of control, there’s One who’s still sitting on His throne, in control of it all. I’m reassured by that.

And I love that God scoffs at the ones who’ve gathered against Him. If a human being scoffs at you, that’s one thing, but God scoffing at you? Wow - that’s a dreadful prospect! Has someone treated you unjustly? Do they think they’ve got away with it? Psalm 2 reminds us that one day, we’ll all have to give an account of ourselves to God; we’ll all have to answer for our actions. And do you know your response to the one who’s mistreated you will affect their future?

Jesus taught that if we forgive others’ wrongs, they’ll be forgiven; but if we don’t, they won’t. He showed incomprehensible forgiveness Himself when His hands and feet were nailed to a cross, and He was tormented to come down and save Himself. An early Christian, Stephen, asked as he died a martyr’s death that the sins of those who killed him wouldn’t be held against them. Have you ever thought who was standing by that day? A young man called Saul gave approval to Stephen’s death. Not long afterwards, Saul was travelling to Damascus to persecute more Christians when Jesus appeared to him, and he became a believer himself. Saul (later known as Paul) believed in Jesus, so his sins weren’t held against him. Could you do that to those who gather against God or against you – forgive them, and trust that God will respond in the right way to their mistakes?

How to be Poor

It’s amazing how, when I read some of these chapters, I discover a theme running through them:  Today’s seems to be poverty.

 

“The plans of hard-working people earn a profit, but those who act too quickly become poor” (Proverbs 21:5).

 

“Whoever loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and perfume will never be rich” (Proverbs 21:17).

 

Last but not least, perhaps one of the most important verses in this chapter:

“Whoever ignores the poor when they cry for help will also cry for help and not be answered” (Proverbs 21:13).  This might bring to mind people you’ve helped, but maybe you’re also remembering that person asking for loose change – the one you found an excuse not to help.  Thanks to what Jesus did on the cross, forgiveness is there for our past mistakes, but from now on, let’s think about the poor and not shut our ears to them.

The Big 3s

Today’s Daily Post asks us to search our hearts for the big 3s:  First, 3 things we believe to be true.  I believe Jesus really did hang on a cross and was crucified for me.  I believe Jesus rose from the dead, and I believe forgiveness is possible.  As Corrie Ten Boom said:  “Jesus died for that man.  Could I ask for anything more?”  Without Jesus’ example, without the forgiveness He showed to us all, it would be impossible for us to really forgive those who wrong us.  I’m glad that because of Jesus, we can live the life He wants us to live.

 

And the other big 3:  Things we believe to be false.  I firmly believe evolution is false.  At best it reduces God, our Creator, to one who doesn’t have the power to create the whole world in 6 days.  At worst, it questions whether He exists at all.  I really encourage you when looking for a church to find a Bible-believing one, which holds to the truth that we didn’t evolve from monkeys; God formed us in our mothers’ wombs.

 

I also believe we can’t find security in any person, or thing, on this earth.  When I look at myself, I know at times I’ve fallen short.  I haven’t lived up to others’ expectations and certainly not my own.  I’ve messed up, as have we all.  Money spends and people fail, but God is eternal and trustworthy.

 

So, one more falsehood, and it would be this:  The devaluing of people.  I overheard a conversation earlier, that didn’t sit well with me.  An elderly person needed a lift and the woman told her husband:  “D is coming with me to collect C, so that he can do it as well eventually, and share the responsibility.”  It made me sad for that poor man – that he doesn’t have a friend who finds it a pleasure to take him places.  I hope and pray that when I get to eighty years old, I’m not just a name on a rota.  I’d really rather stay at home than have someone take me somewhere out of a sense of duty.  It made me want to sing the praises of Community Action, a charity which provides transport for elderly people and treats them with such respect.  Perhaps you’re in your eighties reading this blog; perhaps you just feel you’re a burden, but that is totally false.  God formed you in your mother’s womb, however many years ago that was.  He loves to spend time with you!  Jesus died so that you could be close to God, and He could be close to you.  If you’re still here, it means He’s not finished with you yet!  The world would be a much better place if we all did what Jesus said, and loved one another as He’s loved us.

Welcomed

“Aristarchus, who is a prisoner like me, sends greetings.  So does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas.  You have received instructions about Mark.  If he comes to you, welcome him” – Colossians 4:10 (God’s Word Translation)

 

I love this verse, but if I didn’t know who Mark was, I would probably have skimmed over it without a second thought.  Ok; you’ve seen he’s the cousin of Barnabas, so let me tell you about them both.  Barnabas means ‘Son of encouragement’, and that’s appropriate because he was the one to encourage Paul when Paul first became a Christian.  Paul (or Saul, as he was then) had a famous conversion on the road to Damascus.  He was on his way to find Christians and put them in prison.  He even had letters approving their arrests, but he saw a light from heaven and fell to the ground, and Jesus told him:  “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5).  From then on, Saul put his all into showing people that Jesus is the Christ, but when he went back to Jerusalem, the Christians were suspicious.  What they saw was a man in authority, who’d once arrested Christians, now claiming to be a believer.  No one wanted to give him a chance, except for Barnabas, who persuaded others to meet with Saul and talk to him.

 

Barnabas and Paul remained close friends.  When they went on their first mission trip, they took Mark (who’s sometimes known as John) along with them, but for whatever reason, that didn’t work out.  Perhaps Mark was very young and the homesickness felt too much for him; perhaps he was afraid of opposition; I don’t know, but he went back home to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13).  Paul saw this as desertion and must have felt extremely let-down because when Barnabas suggested giving Mark another chance and taking him on a later trip, Paul wouldn’t hear of it.  They disagreed so strongly that they decided to go their separate ways – Barnabas taking Mark, and Paul taking Silas (Acts 15:36-40).

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So now you know who Mark is, and perhaps you can see why I love the verse:  “You have received instructions about Mark.  If he comes to you, welcome him”.  A couple of questions come to mind:  Why would the Christians in Colossae not welcome him?  How would they know about his past?  They must have heard it from Paul.  I’m not saying Paul should have kept his mouth shut.  When you’re with family in the Lord – people you’re close to, you’ll talk about trips you’ve been on; things that happened; people who’ve disappointed you, but Paul telling them in this letter to welcome him takes humility.  He’s admitting he was wrong about Mark.  In fact, he writes somewhere else that Mark has helped him in his work (2 Timothy 4:11), so they made up.  Isn’t it great to read happy endings?

 

One more question:  Why did the Colossians need instructing to welcome him?  Well, sadly, perhaps some wouldn’t have done so without being told.  When somebody’s hurt a person we love and respect, it’s in our earthly natures to treat them with suspicion and distrust, not to welcome them with open arms, but God’s nature is very different.

 

Something to think about:  Are you suspicious of someone?  Do you need to ‘Welcome them’?