Thankful for Grace and Forgiveness

Jesus in the Garden prays for you and me, asking that we may live in unity.
Jesus, in the Garden, prays for you and me, asking that we may live in unity. (John 17:21-23)

I have a friend who is a gym teacher at an all boys elementary school. He loves to tell a great story about watching kids line up for gym class.  You can see them, can’t you? All dressed identical in little navy gym shorts and grey t-shirts. Timmy pokes Jason in the side. Jason pokes him back. Timmy slaps Jason. Jason slaps him back. Soon, it escalates to shoving, and before you know it, one of them is on the ground looking up at the gym lights and rafters.

Sometimes, it is that way with grown-ups too, isn’t it? At work. In your family. Even at church. Mr. Smith says something to Mr. Franklin that just happens to push Mr. Franklin’s buttons. Before you know it, Mr. Smith is offended. At Men’s Bible study coffee the next morning, Mr. Smith is telling Mr. Thompson about how horrible a man Mr. Franklin is. Mr. Thompson sees Mr. Franklin the next Sunday morning and decides not to talk with him any longer.  Mrs. Franklin then sees Mrs. Smith at the Ladies Bible Study on Tuesday and gives her an earful and Mrs. Thompson stands off to the side and can’t imagine why her two dear friends are terribly miffed at each other.

Miscommunication.  Being misunderstood. A short email not intended to be mean-spirited turns into hurt feelings and an offended heart.  Holding grudges then turns into bitterness. And it can be like a malignant cancer that spreads not only through one person, but among a whole group of people.  And things get ugly.

And every one of us is susceptible to ugliness, because every one of us is human… and we are sinners.  Relational conflict is a part of a normal life. Solomon suggested it is healthy as it sharpens us. Ugliness and slander and gossip, however, are sin.

The Bible is full of great counsel on how to handle relating to one another.

If you look at the Ten Commandments, they are all about relating. The first four outline our relationship to God; the other six provide rules for our relationship with one another.  There are hundreds of scriptures that deal with relationships and communication. Here are a few:

A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire.

Proverbs 15:1 (The Message)

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.

Ephesians 4:29  (The Message)

Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.

2 Timothy 2:16  (NIV)

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

Proverbs 18:21

Or as the Living Bible puts it:

“Those who love to talk will suffer the consequences. Men have died for saying the wrong thing!”

The gospel according to my mom said it this way: “Ask these three questions before opening your mouth: Is it needful? Is it truthful? Is it kind?”

Words are important.

Think about that for a moment. Think about when words have lifted you up and given you life. “It’s a boy!” “Yes, I will marry you!” Or those times when you have been devastated by words, and even brought death… death to a marriage, death to a lifelong friendship, death to a dream. All because someone merely spoke some words.

Jesus takes it a step further by saying in Matthew 18. verse 18: “What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this.” Your words are eternal! Once spoken they continue on into the cosmos forever… like a stone that ripples in a borderless pond.

Yet, even with all this warning in the Bible, sometimes we say dumb things, don’t we? Sometimes we don’t think before we speak, do we? And when that happens, there is a “blazing flame of destruction and disaster” (see James 3).

So, if we can control our tongue that’s good. If we think before we speak, that’s good. But when we don’t, we often hurt other people. And then what happens next? There is anger. Bitterness. Friendships are strained. Lifelong relationships are fractured.

But Jesus… the grace of Jesus gives us some very practical tools to bring reconciliation. And that is why during this Thanksgiving season we can be thankful for His grace and His perfect plan of forgiveness. With the Holy Spirit guiding us, we have the ability to walk with joy with one another.

What is His plan for forgiveness? Matthew 18:15-17 and Ephesians 4 are great resources you can explore. Can you commit to walking in a Biblical model of forgiveness? Can you agree to this covenant:

  1. I will not pass along a bad report about anyone.
  2. I will first go to the one who offended me and seek reconciliation.
  3. Only if we cannot be reconciled person-to-person, I will meet with an elder or pastor to discuss the situation, with the goal being a meeting with the person who offended me and an elder or pastor.
  4. I will guard the unity of the Body of Christ.

This is a model that is not convicting, but rather freeing, in how we can walk in personal relationships.  When Jesus prayed for us in the garden in John 17, He asked the Father to give us the grace to walk in unity as the Father and the Son are unified.

Jesus is asking that we, fellow Believers, be one… just as the Father is of one heart and one mind with the Son. We can be united SO THAT the world will believe.  That’s key isn’t it? Yes, of course, we are human. We will have relational and communication issues as sure as the sun shines every day.  And even this week, when you get together with your family for Thanksgiving or next month at Christmas… sometimes those are the hardest times and the most difficult people to offer grace and forgiveness to, right?…  But we don’t have to let our differences, our offenses, destroy that which God has established.

Jesus has made a way for us to be reconciled… eternally with God and right now with each other. And that is something for which we can all be thankful.

If you’d like to hear the full sermon from this message, go here: http://bit.ly/1a4VIJf
(c) 2013. Rich Ronald.

The Blessing of Dad is Life Giving.

The blessing of a father to a son brings life.
The blessing of a father to a son brings life.

“Dad.”

What do you think of when you think about your dad? We all have a father. Some were better than others in how they did “dadding.” If you had a “bad” dad, my heart breaks for you.

To be fair, most of parenting is trial and error. As I look back on how I parented my kids I want to say to them as Tim Kimmel says: “Forgive me for being such an idiot!”

We are in a sweet season of talking about “family” at our church. This past weekend we camped out on a conversation about our earthly fathers and how it makes sense that most of us men learned how to be a dad by watching our own fathers. We learned the good stuff and the bad stuff by being first-hand recipients.

I think it’s ironic that just about every man I know who swore they would never say the things to their children that their dad said to them, have broken that vow. “Turn that music down!” “That friend of yours is no good for you.” “When I was your age, we respected our elders…” And the list goes on and on.

My relationship with my own dad was really pretty good. I knew that he loved me no matter what I did. Yes, he was too busy to come to all of my special events, but now that I’ve been a dad for over 20 years I can understand why. He died way too young and I never really had an adult-to-adult relationship with him.

And while I can’t remember a specific time when he blessed me, I know that he was proud of me and he was happy about the faith and life decisions I had made by the time I was 22, the year he died.

But there are many men I know today that did not have that kind of relationship with their dad. Some dads were downright mean. Some told their sons that they would never amount to anything. Some were ambivalent or absent. To these men who rarely, or never, heard positive words from their earthly father let me speak these words from our heavenly Father:

“I know you.” Psalm 139

“I have great plans for you; plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29

“I will never leave you.” Deuteronomy 31

“I will never reject you.” Psalm 94

“I will never abandon you.”  Hebrews 13

“I will not break my promises to you.” Psalm 89

“I will bless you and your family.” Genesis 12

“I do not condemn you.” Romans 8

“I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine.” Isaiah 43

“I take great delight in you.” Zephaniah 3

“I love you.” John 3

You know, in the Old Testament culture, and still in the Jewish family today, the father places his hands on his child’s head and speaks a blessing over them every Friday night as part of the celebration of the Sabbath.  No matter what has happened between them during the week, at that moment, the Father and the Son are connected by a blessing.

Our Heavenly Father want to bless you. Receive God’s blessings, men.  He loves you more than you know. Let that sink into your heart and give you life.

And then, pass His blessings on to your children and your children’s children.  And if you don’t know how to pass along the blessings, just honestly say the words above to your children that God has already said to you.

It will touch their heart. It will touch yours as well. It will bring life to you, to your children, to your family.

 (c) 2103. Rich Ronald.

Lessons from the Fathers’ Hearts: Joshua

A devotional look at eleven Biblical dads and what we can learn from them.

JOSHUA

He is the great warrior.  A protégé of Moses.  He was one of the 12 spies that Moses sent out to scout out the Promised Land.  He and Caleb were the only two who told the truth about the giants.  Only he and Caleb believed that God was bigger than the giants and would indeed give them the Land.  And so, Joshua and Caleb were the only two, of all the Hebrew people who left Egypt at the Exodus, they were the only two who were permitted to enter the Promised Land.  All the other men and women and children who left Egypt with Moses died in the wilderness.

And Joshua is appointed by Moses to lead the people into the Land for he was a capable military commander. He also became a strong spiritual leader.

Joshua’s story is told throughout the 24 chapters of the Old Testament book that bears his name.  There are numerous stories of his faithful belief in God.

Continue reading “Lessons from the Fathers’ Hearts: Joshua”