loving rebuke

I often think  that only God can deliver the correction we occasionally (at least) need. After all, it is God who is love. We are not, but are a mixed bag of good and bad, and left to ourselves, we’re at the center of our existence, or something less than the actual God is, often some combination of that.

And yet Jesus tells us that if our brother or sister sins against us to rebuke them. We have to watch out, because they may not be sinning against us. Only God knows the heart. It is hard to receive and probably even harder to give any kind of rebuke. We need to be on each other’s side, and any possible correcting words may put a wedge between us. That said, somehow by grace, we ought to be open to this practice, as long as it’s not commonplace, I say. Dallas Willard doubted that such can be done today, since people always take it personally and feel condemned. I wonder what it is in our age which makes this so, but it does seem to be the case in my own experience.

Probably giving a rebuke is not without sin when we do so out of our own personal pain, or aggrievement. Certainly prayer ought to accompany it, and preferably much prayer. And if much prayer, than it would seem wise only to offer a word of loving correction after one has at least slept on it. In other words, don’t rush in to correct.

If we do offer that word soon after the incident, we need to be concerned lest the relationship is hurt. We want a growing relationship through God’s love in Jesus by the Spirit. God’s grace in and through Jesus is the sphere in which we live. So we should be open to offer a word of apology and the asking for forgiveness for giving the rebuke in the first place. But probably we shouldn’t be hasty in doing that, either, unless we were clearly out of bounds in our attitide and action. While we likely were not without sin in offering the rebuke, there is also likely some truth in what we offered. If we ask for forgiveness out of our own feeling of fear and condemnation, that in itself isn’t right, either. We need to have enough clarity in the light and love of the Spirit to be able to proceed that direction. It may be wisdom to simply pray. Love does cover over a multitude of sins, so it may end up being something apt to address later, or completely let go. Yet in never mentioning it, it still remains. Maybe that in and of itself is an impetus to continue to pray, which may be needed.

Friendship nowadays seems to be about buddy, buddy times, in which there is no accountability. Maybe a better way to apply any needed rebuke is by example in love, and letting go of the perceived wrong done against us. After all, that is to be our heart attitude. And too often rebukes are done harshly. It might be best to approach someone with questions, and listen, trying to put the best construction on their answer. That could leave the window open to help them understand how their actions or words might have come across to us, or someone else.

We certainly do need to trust God in all of this. What wisdom might any reader like to offer on this? 

in Jesus we are invited to intimacy and enthronement with him

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire,so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Revelation 3:14-22

We may live in a Laodicean kind of age, not at all related to any dispensational scheme, but with something of the kind of Christianity we see in the Laodicean church of old. They were well off and satisfied with their lives, even as they named the name of Christ. But Jesus told them that there was something vitally missing. It wasn’t necessarily that they lacked a personal relationship with Jesus altogether, though it does seem weak at best. They are told that they are loved by God, and therefore being disciplined, at least that is intimated.

About a personal relationship with Jesus. I know that is bashed in some quarters of the church, but even if it might be overemphasized by some, while other matters of importance which are also central to the faith are largely ignored, it still, I say, is important. We have to keep reading scripture to really see if that’s the case, but I think a fair reading of the Final, New Testament will amply bring that out.

Yes, Jesus is on the outside knocking, so to speak. He wants a close fellowship, or communion with us. That is among other things which is at the heart of the faith, and in a way, we might say, at the heartbeat of it all.

And the idea that we’re not in a battle, and that it should all go easy if we’re in the Spirit is simply not a matter of fact either in reality, or in the pages of the Bible, including the New Testament. We are, and to realize that, we can say, is half the battle. Of course being “in the Spirit” will help us deal with the hard places, but it is no less a battle, of course spiritual in nature.

And what we’re promised if we’re victorious in and through Jesus is shocking and mind boggling. We are told that we’ll end up sitting with Jesus on his throne, even as Jesus after his victory sat with his Father on his throne. I can just imagine millions upon millions upon millions getting to take their turn seated with Jesus on his throne, and in the Spirit somehow always seated with Jesus on his throne. It’s interesting that even now we are seated with the ascended Christ, who is at the right hand of God, enthroned with the Father; that we are seated with him positionally, and perhaps by the Spirit there (Ephesians 1-2).

And so a close intimacy in knowing Jesus seems tied to being victorious in him in this life, so that in the end we are honored with him in and through him. As long as we’re in this present life, both are of vital importance.

…we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Romans 8

 

friendship

A friend loves at all times,
    and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

Proverbs 17:17

A friend is someone you spend time with, sharing an affinity somehow, having a connection. One’s best friend I think ought to be one’s spouse or significant other. But one can have other friends as well, one of whom may be a friend in a way a spouse can’t. Actually every friendship is surely unique as the different people who are friends.

In a general sense we might have a good number of friends, any number of people you might feel comfortable with at a party or some kind of gathering. But real, true blue friends are rare, or much less in number. And actually we can be friends like that with only so many. Jesus himself spent a good share of his time, especially what private time he had, with the Twelve. And Peter, James and John shared the most intimate, closest times with him, John perhaps being the closest of all, calling himself in the gospel with his name, “the one Jesus loved.” Though perhaps that ascription was simply because of his own awareness of Jesus’ love for him.

Being friendly is important, and certainly a prerequisite to being a friend (Proverbs). But being friendly is not the same as being a friend. Friendship requires a commitment to be present with each other through thick and thin. It is two way, not one way. So that it’s different than a mentoring kind of friendship. And yet true friends are present for each other in ways that are not only comforting and consoling through the battering life often brings, but also to sharpen each other, as in iron sharpening iron (Proverbs). A good friend will love at all times, and that love will not let their friend off easily from what might be harmful, or less than desirable for their good.

I have come to think that true, deep friendship is rare. There will have to be a commitment to each other in which a multitude of shortcomings as in limitations and even sins are forgiven. True friendship isn’t easy. Sometimes between two people it’s impossible because one simply drains the other. None of us can be God to another. People need to be helped out of a “codependency” which is as harmful to themselves, probably more so, than to the one they unhealthily depend on. “Friendships” like that should be broken. Such people need friends, but it needs to be in a give and take relationship in which there is something of partnership and equality.

A good place to start in this is friendship with God, yes with God in and through Jesus. Through God’s reconciling work in Jesus, we can be friends again with God, and friends anew with each other. Jesus is the pattern in himself and by his example. So that friendship is to be edifying, in God through Jesus the most edifying and ennobling of all, beginning the restoring of the brokenness of our humanity into the full humanity that is in Christ.

saying goodbye for now to a friend

Phil is a friend of ours along with his devoted, loving wife, Kelly. We have known them for some time now. We lost track of them for awhile when they moved, but by and by they moved back, not far away where Phil grew up. Phil and Kelly are the kind of people who would give you the shirt off their backs if they could (and even if they really could not).

I especially remember the times Phil and I would get together for coffee and chat. We would talk about faith and everyday things as well. Phil would tell me that he always enjoyed it immensely, that it was a highlight for him. Well that was Phil in part I think, he was gracious. But I also think somehow the Lord was at work in our fellowship to draw us both nearer to him. I saw the times as meeting with a good friend and as very ordinary as far as what faith I shared. That reminds me how God can use the ordinary, even the broken, just as the Lord used the five loaves and two small fishes to feed a multitude.

Phil was diagnosed with cancer, which was held at bay for some time, but finally did its destructive work.

Deb and I bought the film Ragamuffin, which gives one angle of Rich Mullins’ life. I could identify well with that film myself in some ways, and Deb in her own way as well. It occurred to me that Phil and Kelly might identify with it also, and that we needed to get together with them anyhow. So we bought them a copy. And they did.

Soon afterwards the cancer was diagnosed as having spread with a limited time to live. Phil committed himself to fight through and did so to the end. He wanted to experience as much of life as possible, and in the end he was able to fulfill something of all his last wishes except the very last.

For a time, I called him up most every day, usually in the evening. We would chat a bit, I might read him some scripture, and pray. One time he prayed himself, a heartfelt prayer to God, at least mostly as I remember it about the needs of others. Even during his great need, Phil would be occupied with concern for others, especially for his wife, Kelly. Even for me.

I remember our last visit together. Phil could barely walk. At one point apparently for no reason he said, “Praise God.” It was a hard, trying time. The sad day has arrived, and yet it’s a happy day as well. Happy because we know he is at a place that is “better by far,” with Jesus. Sad because we’ll miss him.

I look forward to seeing him again, all well and active in doing whatever it is he will be about. Together with all of us in Jesus in the eternal life of the new creation in the kingdom to come.

the unreal world of social media

I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

Writing is something many of us do who are online, whether with our own blog, Twitter, Facebook, or something of the like. And sharing back and forth, or seeking to communicate that way can be good. Words can open up the world, even bring us into a new world. Witness scripture itself, par excellence for that.

Yesterday I felt abandoned and alone. But late in the day, mid afternoon, I was able to work with a friend, and we had good interactive fellowship with each other. My heart was turned from near despair in stone cold to peace and joy. Hopefully my friend was encouraged as well, not that he needed that in the way I did at the time.

There is no substitute for face to face interaction. For committed friendship to each other. And for us in Jesus, all of that in and through him.  Just to be in each other’s presence in grace with full acceptance of each other. Along with openness for all kinds of interaction, including the need sometimes for correction, or input to help us on our journey. I would rather have one true friend than one thousand “friends” on social media. Actually there can be some good occurring along those lines on social media, but we need each other right where we live.

Any church which has any degree of spiritual health will value relationships. They really need to go beyond friendly chit chat. There needs to be a commitment to each other in the Lord. For better or for worse, even outside the bonds of marriage. Of course we have to exercise caution and wisdom with those of the opposite sex. We need plenty of wisdom in friendships. But this should be a priority in our lives.

 

 

the impact we have on each other

Going into this new year, 2014, I think of books which have had a major impact on my life, along the way. Of course the Book, the Bible being in a place all by itself. But other books, besides. But just as important as that, if not more are the people who have impacted me along the way, both for good and ill. I hate to say for ill, because I am sadly sure that I have hurt others at times in ways which require God’s redemptive work, no less. And actually in a true sense we are a mixed bag. We help and hurt each other in our relationships, though hopefully in and through Christ we are learning to live in the way of love and truth. Although in Jesus there is no way to make everything comfortable, since that is not what Jesus and the way in him is all about.

We have impact on each other just by being in each other’s company, being the people we are. That is a large part of what church is all about. In church a whole different dynamic is present by the Spirit, so that in God’s grace in Jesus we rub off on each other in all sorts of ways. In God’s love by the Spirit for good, even while we inevitably have to work through the hurts in our failings which we inflict on each other.

Actually, I am becoming rather convinced that an important place for change is to simply live in the melting pot of humanity. Particularly in the church and among other believers in Christ, but also among others. To enter into their world, and accept something of that world as part of us, as part of our own world. So that we can both give and receive from others, and in that process together find the one who has found us, God in Jesus. We need to remember too, that it is important that we love with no strings attached, even while we pray and hope for the best for everyone, in and through Jesus.

I know I have been impacted by those around me, through our church: Redeemer Covenant, through my work at RBC Ministries, through friends elsewhere such as online on social networks. Life as humans is lived in relationships and within community. That is where it finds much of its meaning. In fact the heart of all meaning is found within the Community of the Triunity of God as Father, Son and Spirit. We humans in and through Jesus are meant to be taken up into that Communion of God by the Spirit. We’re meant to live there, but not in some ethereal existence, but in a down to earth way. With all that is involved in our humanity in this life, and in the life to come within the new creation in Jesus.

And so I am thankful for the people I know and have known (as well as the books I have read and am reading). Wanting to do well by those nearest me in both my family, and in the family of Jesus. As well as all in this world, in my world, who regardless, are neighbors. That is what is foremost in my thoughts at the moment as we enter into this new year.

friendship

Simple friendship is underrated across the board. Of course what that friendship is like will depend on the relationship, be it a parent and child, spouses, workers, members of a local church, etc. I don’t think much good will get done until people are not just friendly, but actual friends. Hospitality is not as much a gift as a virtue to be pursued by all Christians, according to the New Testament. Though there is surely a gift to some in that, as well.

Jesus had a close relationship with the Twelve, and it seems perhaps a closer relationship with Peter, James and John, the latter called “the one who Jesus loves.” It was a friendship based on commitment: to the Lord and in that, to each other in mission to the world. People are not meant to do it alone. Jesus could have, and anyone can, actually. And there are times when that is necessary: Jesus on the cross, one prime example. But by and large we are in this life together, evident in a number of ways in scripture, in love to each other, as well as to others.

A spirituality, or better put, a Holy Spirit led existence which does not make friendship one central aspect of life, is surely missing out on an essential for life and mission, indeed for the life that is in Jesus. Friendship meets the other where they are at, available to touch wounds for healing. Churches which are healthy will be strong in the area of friendship without excluding outsiders.

While following Jesus is central, the Christian life too often has been made to be one’s encounter with God through Jesus, period. Friendship is not adequately considered a part of the new life in Jesus. God’s love in Jesus is seen to be enough in a way that excludes others. Whenever I read or hear someone say God’s love is all we need, I either accept that with qualifications, or more likely, I cringe. No, God has made it so that we need each other in Jesus.

The heart of sin is that it divides in breaking relationships. The heart of the gospel of reconciliation is that God’s love in Christ restores relationship between God and people, and people to each other. Not everyone is going to be friends on the same level. David and Jonathan had a special bond of friendship, and we will be closer to some than others. The point is that we in Jesus are all to be friends. Committed that way, and growing in that. As we reach out to bring others into this restored humanity of love in Jesus.