Help Me Not To Be A Jerk!

In Philip Gulley’s Harmony series, the Quaker preacher Sam utters a prayer I resonate with when he says…

“Lord, fill me Your truth and grace,” I prayed. “And help me not be a jerk about it.” – Life Goes On by Philip Gulley.

I admit, I’m a natural smart-aleck. It comes at the unexpected moments. Sometimes I think it’s something really clever. You know, a quip or a zinger or even a ‘gotcha’ rebuttal. But the moment it escapes my lips I realize it transcended clever and went straight on to irritant, and instead of a smile I can see the smoke coming from the recipient’s ears. The examples that come to mind … most of them involve people who are still living and I’d rather not remind them of my special moment in case they’ve forgotten. If you are reading this and you’re thinking, “I wondered if he realized this about himself!” then please forgive me! How likely am I to offend again? Unfortunately it probably won’t be long.

I can’t tell you how many Facebook posts I’ve deleted about 30 seconds after posting. Somehow they look different printed on the page. Then I think about how that will be received. Not well, I expect. Twitter is worse. You can’t really take it back (you can delete a tweet but it still can be seen by those who were reading at the time). But even worse…

Spoken words. You can’t take them back. Some of those words are hard to forgive, much less forget. Especially when they sting someone in your family, or a friend, or someone you wanted to be a friend with (but you cured that!). 

James has a lot to say about words and the use of the tongue and he doesn’t cut any corners about it. 

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. – James 1:26

Ouch. 

I liked preacher Sam in the Harmony series. I resonated with the experiences he had as the pastor of a congregation in a small town. I resonated with some things I didn’t care for in myself. 

I know I’m not alone because I read some of the harsh things other people write. Often when one feels loftier than others, one feels freer to write things in a way that can be brutal.

 Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]; 20 for the [resentful, deep-seated] anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God [that standard of behavior which He requires from us]. – James 1:19-20, AMP

“Lord, fill me Your truth and grace,” I prayed. “And help me not be a jerk about it.”

A mighty fine prayer…. you know … for those who need it. 

Thanks for reading, JD

From Sinner to Sinner

“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” ― Timothy Keller

I had some thoughts about sin and sinners today that I threw out on Facebook and Twitter. They seemed to resonate. I wanted to post them here as well.

*No matter what you think of someone else’s sin, remember that it takes the same blood of Jesus to cleanse all sins – even our own.

*When you are tempted to talk about someone else’s sin, ask yourself if you are creating an environment of repentance or judgment.

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*No one sins in a vacuum… Other people are hurting. Have you prayed for healing of those suffering because of collateral damage?

*We cannot pretend that sin is not sin. We cannot pretend that grace is not grace. Lift up the fallen through the power of forgiveness.

*Just some thoughts from one sinner to another.

Hopefully those are worth contemplating a bit.

Here are some books for your Kindle…

Walking From East to West by Ravi Zacharias  $1.99

Thriving in Babylon by Larry Osborne   Currently FREE

I Will! Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian by Thom Rainer  $5.24

Be Alive! John 1-12  by Warren W. Wiersbe  $1.99

Joseph: A Man of Integrity and Forgiveness by Charles Swindoll  $1.99

Handbook for Christian Living by Charles Stanley  $2.99

MacArthur Bible Handbook by John MacArthur  $2.99

Baptism 6

water baptism

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. – Acts 9:1

Perhaps the least likely person to become a disciple of Jesus Christ was Saul of Tarsus. His urgent and relentless persecution of Christians was well known throughout the churches of the day. But through an encounter with Christ, Saul’s world was shaken. Blinded by a bright light, he had some time to begin to realize the power of the resurrected Lord. God told a man named Ananias to go and teach him the gospel. Although Ananias was fearful of Saul, he did go to him. 

Acts 9:17-19 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized,  and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Just as the other examples we saw in the book of Acts, when he had faith in Christ he decided to follow Him and was baptized. God changed Saul’s name to Paul. Later, Paul would recount this event in his life and give us more details about what Ananias said to him:

Acts 22:14-16 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’

Baptism is often associated with the removal or washing away of sins. As Paul became an enthusiastic missionary for God, his message never changed. He proclaimed that we all have sinned, that we cannot save ourselves. He emphasized that because of God’s grace and the love of Christ, we have opportunity to turn to Jesus. Faith leads us to being baptized, being a part of the church, and becoming a light to the world around us. Here are some other verse where Paul writes about the importance of baptism…

Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Galatians 3:26-28 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 4:5 …one Lord, one faith, one baptism….

Colossians 2:12  having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

It is very clear to me that Paul placed a very high priority on the subject of baptism. If you’re reading this series and you haven’t been baptized, I encourage you to think about how important it is to obey Christ in this way. In fact, I’d like to encourage you to be honest with yourself about why you would reject being baptized…or put it off for another day. 

Would someone who has faith in Jesus as the risen Lord and Savior refuse to be baptized…or even delay being baptized?

Next we will look at some of the individuals in the New Testament who accepted the message of the gospel and were immersed into Christ!

Thanks for reading, John

Note: This series begins HERE.

Katrina: Two Years Later

This Post is a Re-blog from August 29, 2007. JD

These images are still heartbreaking. The song is perfect.

“Don’t Come Back. Do not return to your homes. Everything South of Highway 90 is gone.” Those are the messages we were getting two years ago as Katrina ravaged the Mississippi and Louisiana Gulf Coast. From North Mississippi we didn’t have any idea what was happening on the Coast. Having evacuated 30 hours before, we were anxiously awaiting word. Communications were down. No one cared about Pascagoula … the media was focused on Biloxi casinos. The levee had given way in New Orleans and a nightmare was broadcast on every cable news channel in the world. The storm was powerful enough that we spent a few days without power in North Mississippi. Wondering. Uncertain. Not even knowing if our home still existed. I can tell you that this is reviving some now forgotten memories and feelings as I write this. Flashes of memory … my family spending the night in various homes because ours was uninhabitable … tossing all of our furnishings to the curb … masses of people showing up to help … many tears … many struggles. It seems like a long time ago.

I’m in a bit of a pickle with this post. Do we continue to talk about Katrina on a daily basis and mark the anniversary of the most destructive natural disaster to ever happen in the United States … or do we look to the future and keep our focus on the task at hand? On this infamous anniversary, I expect that people will do both.

It’s hard not to rehearse the ‘where were you when it happened’ fascination. But even though we have all talked through our struggles and shared our stories about where we were and what we were doing, that question remains as a staple of conversation. The storm has marked time, as reference is made in daily chatter to “before the storm” and “after the storm”. I look around my house at small non-critical repairs yet to be made … and then I look down my street at people who still inhabit campers … there is no escape from the reminders of what happened to us two years ago.

And yet here on the Eastern edge of the destruction, things are looking up. We have had thousands of volunteers and millions of dollars worth of materials and donations come into our county. Every denomination and even non-Christians have been here to raise our spirits and our homes. Hard work, organization, trial and error …. all a part of the recovery. We have mourned the loss of several people we had hoped to get back into their homes, but their frail bodies could not last through the immense stress of this event.

Yesterday Jim Ingram and I spent some time at the home of one of our elderly sisters from church, Jean. Her husband Al was one of our elders for thirty-something years. Al was a stroke victim even when I met him some 15 years ago. Watching his city in ruins and his home being gutted out was too much for him. He had a massive stroke and perished only a few weeks after the storm.  Before Jim, he was my visiting partner. We had some fun times together … especially one memorable trip when we were going to the Harding Lectures together. We stopped in Jackson at Skyway Hills church of Christ to worship. I received a phone call there that let me know that the Harding Lectures were the next week. So we came home. The phone call also contained some disconcerting news … and Al was a comfort to me all the way home. His pictures still adorn Jean’s walls and it is obvious that she still mourns his loss even today. I miss him too.

While I do not believe that God sent Katrina as an act of judgment, I do believe that God used Katrina to teach us so many valuable lessons. There have been some blessings in all of this. I have made friends all over the United States. I have witnessed acts of extreme service … and grown in my appreciation for the plight of the homeless and poor. I understand the humility of accepting the help of others, rather than being the one offering help. I have shed tears with strangers and hugs with the hurting. I’ve met and become friends with drug addicts, alcoholics, and other sinners. I’ve come to face some of my own sins and gained insights from others as I struggle with them. If we didn’t gain something from Katrina, it would be a useless experience.

Today we have an empty bunk house, our dining hall looks abandoned, and there are no volunteers scattered around our building. It is taking some getting used to. The work is still available if there are any who can come … and we have assurances of others who are coming in months ahead. For many the crisis is over. For others, the two year nightmare continues. And we’re not through with hurricane season 2008 yet.

I have, many times over, said ‘Thank You’ to the volunteers who came to help us. Every one offered something unique, but all were the same in that they wanted to lift the hurting and broken back to their feet. God bless every one richly. Without you, we would be nowhere. Our church building is mostly restored. Our members homes are repaired to a livable state. Hundreds in our community benefitted from your service.  I personally benefitted from people serving in working in my home. One blog reader sent a financial gift every month for several months …. and I don’t know how we would have survived without it. Others sent one time gifts … and these all allowed us to share with the needy all around us. God used you all in a mighty way … an unlikely army of both skilled and unskilled workers … joining together to dig us out of the mud. How could you ever be thanked sufficiently? You could not.

Ecclesiastes 3 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven …a time to tear down and a time to build…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance  …

Is this a time to mourn or a time to dance? Yes.

LINKS

Al Sturgeon’s remarks on Katrina Fatigue.

Larry James remarks on the non-recovery of New Orleans.

NPR Stories on the anniversary of Katrina … mostly focused on New Orleans.

Thanks for reading.

John

Sights of Chattanooga

Rather than talk about our few days in Chattanooga, here are some images from our visit. We hope to return to enjoy more!

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We enjoyed our visit to this beautiful place.

   

Pray for Peace

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Our world is in need of peace …globally … nationally … and even in our community. Spiritual forces of evil are at work that are unrecognized by the unbelieving populace, but Christians recognize easily.

Unfortunately in our humanity we often are drawn into conflict. Often it is in the name of ‘standing up for our rights’ or telling other people that they are wrong and God is against them. I don’t think we can shout down the spirit of division that exists around us.

God is a God of Peace and I think Christians everywhere need to include in their prayers the concept of peace. Jesus came to tear down walls of division between people so that they could belong to the Eternal Family by following Him.

For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. ~Ephesians 2:14 

Pray for Peace

Pray for peace between Republicans and Democrats and Others.

Pray for Peace in the US, Iran, Israel, and around the world.

Pray for God to defeat all hostility between humans.

Pray that Christians would never let human loyalties steal peace from them.

Pray that Christians would never let human ideas divide us.

Pray that Christians would never let human icons divide brothers.

Pray that God would bring peace between all humans.

Pray that God would tear down the walls of hatred and division.

I pray that Christians involved in turmoil and conflict would turn to Jesus to find peace. May Christians never participate in fomenting unrest and evil opinions of others.

If you don’t know Jesus, find Him and find Peace within, peace with others, peace with God.

Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. ~2 Corinthians 13:11

Thanks for reading,  JD.