Romans 9. Grace Means We Are God’s Children.



Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

You can listen to this devotional here:



Romans 9

We all have blind spots. Don’t you find it ironic when you can see something about someone else’s life but they cannot? That’s how Paul feels about the people of Israel. He notes that the Jews are God’s chosen people, but they are so strict at following the Law, they are often blind to see His grace.  We all can be that way.  Paul gives a couple of Old Testament examples. Here is one about Jacob, the second-born twin of Rebecca:

“What God did in this case made it perfectly plain that his purpose is not a hit-or-miss thing dependent on what we do or don’t do, but a sure thing determined by his decision, flowing steadily from his initiative.” (v 12, MSG).

God’s grace and mercy are not dependent on anything WE do. He loves us. Period. Just because we are His kids.

He’s in charge of compassion and mercy. I’m thankful for that. He extends His kindness and we can trust Him. He leads us and we can follow Him. He cares for us and we can rest in His arms. He protects us and we can be certain the enemy will not defeat us. He provides for us and we can be assured that we’ll always have more than what we need. Just because He’s that kind of Father. He’s that kind of God. The One True God. He keeps His promises. Always.

And no matter where we are or what we’ve done, that kindness, that mercy is ours. Yes, it’s that simple.

It’s such a good place to be on the receiving side of His grace! The emphasis here is that God is God. And it is a privilege to be called His children. Why? Like we read yesterday, God is crazy in love with us. After all, He created us.


He cares for us and we can rest in His arms.



Paul quotes one of the minor prophets next:

Hosea put it well:
I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies;
I
’ll call the unloved and make them beloved.

In the place where they yelled out, “You’re nobody!”
they’re calling you “God’s living children.” (v 25, MSG). Hosea 2:23

Paul then quotes Isaiah:

Isaiah maintained this same emphasis:
If each grain of sand on the seashore were numbered
and the sum labeled “chosen of God,”
They’d be numbers still, not names;
salvation comes by personal selection.
God doesn’t count us; he calls us by name.
Arithmetic is not his focus. (v27-28, MSG). Isaiah 10:22-23.

And arithmetic need not be our focus either. Things don’t always add up in life. As long as we keep our focus on God and His grace, we don’t need to worry about anything else! We are His children. He’s got this!

Paul concludes his thoughts on the subject:

How can we sum this up? All those people who didn’t seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives. And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling. Isaiah (again!) gives us the metaphor for pulling this together:

Careful! I’ve put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion, a stone you can’t get around. But the stone is me! If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me on the way, not in the way. (v30-33, MSG).  Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16.

That’s a promise that I want to fully embrace! He is walking with us. Following Jesus is not a stumbling block! He doesn’t slow us down. Following Him is not an obstacle or wall to be climbed over. He is the stone that leads us along the path. I think when we fully embrace that He is with us “on the way,” we can have an amazing confidence that wherever we walk, we will be okay. We have nothing to fear.  In fact, we will be more than okay, because the very presence of God is with us! 


Remember this:

“At the place where they yelled out “You’re a nobody!” they are now calling you “Children of the living God!”




(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

RichlySpeaking.com


Today, I’m attaching this worship song from Bethel Worship because it mirrors our text. 


https://youtu.be/XxkNj5hcy5E











 

 

Romans 6. Grace is Freedom!

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 6.

I have always loved the way this chapter begins. Chapter 5 is all about God’s grace. Now, Paul asks this thought-provoking question: “So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving?” (Romans 6:1, MSG). Do we keep on behaving poorly so God can keep on giving us more and more and more of His grace?  Here are a few different translations of verse 2:

By no means! (NIV)
I should hope not! (MSG)
What a terrible thought! (TPT)
Heaven forbid! (CJB)
Of course not! (NLT)
May it never be! (TLV)

I used to be a king at rationalizing. I’m pretty sure that if I was reading the words of Chapter 5 when Paul was writing it, I would have been one of the first to ask that question. It’s a logical one for our human mind. So, I’m glad to see the answer to his own question. It makes me wonder if Paul likely asked it of God and this answer was for the Apostle’s benefit as well as for ours.


Like wave after wave, grace continues to lap along the seashore of our lives.

To be clear, more sin on our part does not equal more grace on God’s part. Although, Jesus pointed to a woman at a meal at Simon the Pharisee’s home in Luke 7: “She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.” (Luke 7:47, MSG). Our assignment in fully accepting God’s grace is to recognize that we are all sinners, and none of us deserve His grace. And we are to be thankful no matter if the perceived amount of His grace is one ounce or a thousand tons! In reality, we cannot quantify it.

John Newton was a slave trader, British ship captain, and author of the famous hymn “Amazing Grace.” He said it this way: “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” *

Paul says we get to bury that sinful life in baptism. And just as Jesus was raised to life, we too can live a life of freedom from the bondage of sin. That’s why Jesus came! Recall, Jesus said in Luke 4, quoting Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19, NIV).

Our baptism reminds of that. It is a mark on our spiritual journey. It’s a public proclamation that allows us to say, “No, I am going to live differently than I used to live. I am going to live fully embracing the freedom and grace Jesus offers. I am set free from sin. I have been forgiven!

I like walking along the beach. It reminds me, like wave after wave, grace continues to lap along the seashore of our lives. It never runs out! So, how do we live out this grace each day?  Back to Romans 6:

“That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!—into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.”(Romans 6:12-14, MSG).

May the Holy Spirit empower you to”throw yourself into God’s way of doing things” today. And please pray that He allows me to do the same!

 

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

*John Pollock, Amazing Grace: John Newton’s Story (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1981. Page 182.

Romans 5. Jesus Came to Give Us Grace and Life.

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Romans 5.

We make a second stop along the Romans Road today. The first signpost in Romans 3 identified the realization that we are all sinners.  Chapter 5 illuminates the hope we sinners have in Jesus as our Messiah. He is the resolution for the human condition. He makes it right for us to have a relationship with God.

Paul begins this portion by encouraging patience in our lives. We can all be impatient, right? Especially when we are facing troubles… struggles like unemployment, or a medical crisis, or a marriage that is balancing precariously close to collapse. Have you ever prayed a prayer like this: “Please give me patience, God. Right now!” I have.

Look at what patience brings:

We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! (Romans 5:3-5, MSG).

Patience is a virtue and when it is fully developed in us, through trust in God, we can have an attitude of expectancy and hope instead of worry or dread.


What joy, what blessing, what freedom we can carry when we are fully experiencing a life of grace.


Here’s the solution to our impatience and every other sin: Jesus.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6,8, CEV).

God requires a sacrifice, a price to be paid, for our disobedience. Jesus paid that price through His death, and resulting resurrection. Here’s how Paul explains it clearly:

“But there is more! Now that God has accepted us because Christ sacrificed his life’s blood, we will also be kept safe from God’s anger.
 Even when we were God’s enemies, he made peace with us, because his Son died for us. Yet something even greater than friendship is ours. Now that we are at peace with God, we will be saved by his Son’s life.” (Romans 5:9-10, CEV).

We have life and relationship and even peace with God because Jesus died for us.

And what about the Law, the Ten Commandments and other ordinances God placed before Moses and the children of Israel in the Old Testament? Jesus offers something much better: forgiveness and grace.

All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end. (Romans 5:20-21, MSG).

Grace invites us into a beautiful life, like a flowering cherry tree in the springtime. What joy, what blessing, what freedom we can carry when we are fully experiencing a life of grace. I learned so much about grace as a staff pastor under Max Lucado for over ten years. Here’s how he puts it:

“Grace is God as heart surgeon, cracking open your chest, removing your heart—poisoned as it is with pride and pain—and replacing it with his own. Rather than tell you to change, he creates the change. Do you clean up so he can accept you? No, he accepts you and begins cleaning you up. His dream isn’t just to get you into heaven but to get heaven into you.”
― Max Lucado, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine

God wants to put more of Him inside of you. He does that by giving us His heart through His Son.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.” (Ezekiel 36:26, NIV).

Will you let God give you His grace? He loves you and wants you to have all that He has for you. He’s ready to pour into your life so that you can patiently endure the hardships of the journey and enjoy the blessings of beauty and joy and love He so desires for you.

 

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

 

Romans 1. Who Are You and What Are You Doing?

Earlier this year, we took a journey together through the Old Testament book of  Isaiah. Paul, as a learned rabbi and the author of the letter to the church at Rome, quoted regularly from the Prophet. So, let’s take the next few weeks together to look at the New Testament book of Romans.

Right off the top, we see that Paul calls himself a “devoted slave on assignment.” (Romans 1:1, MSG). And it immediately causes me to ask myself two questions: 1) Am I a devoted slave? and 2) What is my assignment? We could certainly drop anchor before the ship even leaves the harbor to ponder these two thoughts.

It’s been said that we are all a slave to something or someone. That can be a good thing, right? If we are bound by healthy habits our assignment might be exercising and eating well-balanced meals. On the other hand, if we are controlled by a TV craving, we might binge-watch our favorite situation comedy until the wee hours of the morning, thus negatively altering our work performance the next day.


Jesus is worth following is because He chose us to give us His grace and the eternal life that comes with it.

 


What if, like Paul, our days were structured around a life disciplined by Jesus? What if we awoke each morning with the inclination on our lips and heart to prioritize God’s to-do list over our own?

Why would Paul do this? Why would we?

“Through him, we received both the generous gift of his life and the urgent task of passing it on to others who receive it by entering into obedient trust in Jesus.” (Romans 1:5, MSG).

Paul assures us that the only reason Jesus is worth following is because He chose us to give us His grace and the eternal life that comes with it. He has chosen us! He has given us grace! He has presented us with life! As we fully embrace this blessing and calling,  might it be relatively easy to accomplish the assignment of telling others about Him?  What if we shared this truth with our friends and family: “You are who you are through this gift and call of Jesus Christ!” (Romans 1:6, MSG).

What a great promise to view through the lens of God’s affection for everyone! You are who you are, I am who I am, through the gift of grace — God’s abundant and unconditional love.

It’s no wonder we see the passion light up Paul’s face as he exclaims:

“And that’s why I can’t wait to get to you in Rome, preaching this wonderful good news of God. It’s news I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else! God’s way of putting people right shows up in the acts of faith, confirming what Scripture has said all along: “The person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives.”” (Romans 1:15-17, MSG).

This Good News is extraordinary! Isn’t it worth sharing? Isn’t it worth structuring our days around and committing our lives to?  While our salvation is not earned by completing our God-given assignments, Paul writes to another church: “God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. That’s why he sent Christ to make us what we are.” (Ephesians 2:10, CEV).

May God fill you with His strength and joy and grace today as you seek to serve Him by accomplishing the assignments He has for you.

 

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

 

Isaiah 48. Celebrate! Be Happy! Shout as You Go!

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 48.

This is the culmination of 400 years of Babylonian captivity. Today is a day to rejoice!

“Today I am doing something new, something you cannot say you have heard before.” (v7, CEV).

The Lord says He tested the people of Israel in the hard times of captivity, tested them to refine them as silver is refined in the fire. You’ve heard this example, I’m sure: As silver is purified there is a black dross that separates from the genuine silver. How does the silversmith know when the silver is perfectly refined? When the dross is completely burned off and he can see his reflection in the pure silver.

So, today, the refining process is complete. Israel finally, once again, is reflecting the image of God, not of other idols or gods.

So, this leads to their freedom!

“I am the holy LORD God. The One who rescues you. For your own good, I teach you and I lead you among the right path… Now leave Babylon! Celebrate as you go! Be happy and shout for everyone to hear: “The LORD has rescued, has redeemed His servant Israel!” (v17,20, CEV).

He has redeemed us, too. The people of Israel were rescued by God at the hand of King Cyrus. We are redeemed by Jesus!

Celebrate! Be happy! Shout as you go!

And as for the people of Babylon? “There is no peace, says the LORD,  for the wicked.” (v22, NIV).

I believe the flip side is also true. There IS peace in abundance for those who live in goodness and grace. In Jesus, there is freedom from the captivity of sin and an overflow of peace. His perfect Shalom. His perfect joy!

 

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Isaiah 28: A Firm Foundation

A Trusting Life Won’t Topple.

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 28.

“I’m laying a firm foundation for the city of Zion. It’s a valuable cornerstone proven to be trustworthy; no one who trusts it will ever be disappointed.” (v16, CEV).

Look how it is written in another version:

“And this is the meaning of the stone: A TRUSTING LIFE WON’T TOPPLE.” (v16, MSG).

I believe that cornerstone is Jesus. Trust. Trust. Trust. We must trust His love, His grace and His plan for our lives. As we do, our lives won’t fall apart.

Webster’s Dictionary defines trust this way: “a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.”

Only Jesus is reliable. Only Jesus is truth. Only Jesus is strength. We will fail each other. We will disappoint.  Try as hard as we might to be reliable, truthful, able and strong, we will fall short. That’s why I’m thankful for His grace — grace that is extended to us and grace that we can offer to others.

We will never be disappointed in Jesus! He is the cornerstone, the firm foundation upon which we build our lives. It’s only because of Jesus that we can trust each other. And we can trust others who trust Jesus because we know that we’re all trusting Jesus. It’s a wonderful circle, built on a firm foundation. That’s what a beautiful community or family or church body is designed to look like.

In a building, the cornerstone is firm. It is solid. It is an anchor between two key walls. It’s strength allows other stones to be built on top of it. Lots of other stones. Every building has one. What, or who, is the cornerstone of your life? Can I suggest that if your cornerstone is anything but Jesus, you are taking a risk with the stability of your life.

Jesus can be that unshakable, unyielding foundation for our lives. But only if we are willing to fully trust Him.

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Isaiah 19

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 19.

Woe is Egypt! This is so interesting! Another neighboring country who faces God’s wrath.  The Message says: “God has scrambled their brains.” (v15).

But then… “When they cry out in prayer because of oppressors, He’ll send them help, a Savior, who will keep them safe and care for them.” (v 20).

I believe that’s a promise for us as well. When our brains are mush, when there is great fog, when we’re lost, we can cry out to our Abba Father, and He will send us help. He will send us grace and wisdom and joy and peace, through the Holy Spirit. And we will receive His blessing.

“Egypt will come back to God, and God will listen to their prayers and heal them.” (v22, MSG).

God will listen to your prayers and heal you too! And He will bless you!

“On that Day, Israel will take its place alongside Egypt and Assyria, sharing the blessing from the center. God-of-the-Angel-Armies, who blessed Israel, will generously bless them all: “Blessed be Egypt, my people! . . . Blessed be Assyria, work of my hands! . . . Blessed be Israel, my heritage!”” (v24‭-‬25, MSG).

Blessed be you, dear child of God! Even when you feel like you are in a fog, you can trust God to make your way clear again.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Isaiah 8

Isaiah 8
Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

 

Isaiah 8.

There is trouble ahead for all who oppose God and oppress His people.

“But face the facts, all you oppressors, and then wring your hands.
    Listen, all of you, far and near.
Prepare for the worst and wring your hands.
    Yes, prepare for the worst and wring your hands!
Plan and plot all you want—nothing will come of it.
    All your talk is mere talk, empty words,
Because when all is said and done,
    the last word is Immanuel—God-With-Us.” (verses 9-10 MSG).

For the follower of God’s ways, He is with us. Always. His name is Immanuel. Where have we heard that name before? Just yesterday in Isaiah 7:14 (CEV): “But the Lord will still give you proof. A virgin is pregnant; she will have a son and will name him Immanuel, which means “God is with us.””

And He is! And I’m so thankful for that. Day after day. Month after month. Year after year. Many can offer proof that God has been with them when they least understood or least expected it. He has surprised many, including me, with His grace and provision and protection when I needed it most! He will do the same for you as you trust in Him.

One other note:  there’s a cross reference in verse 11 to the New Testament writer Peter: “Even if you have to suffer for doing good things, God will bless you. So stop being afraid and don’t worry what people may do. Honor Christ and let Him be the Lord of your life.” 1 Peter 3:14-15 (CEV).

God will bless you.

Yes! God will bless you!

 

 

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

“Have mercy on me, oh God…”

You do still love me, right?
You do still love me, right?

I know a lot of things. It comes with the territory. God speaks to me. He reveals His truths to me. And He puts me in positions to hear and to learn of things. He then calls me to act.

And right now, He has graciously given me the assignment of watching over our king.

My name is Nathan. And I serve in the royal court of David, the King of Israel.  Our majesty has a good heart. He truly does. Like all of us, sometimes he is selfish, and his pride gets in the way of God’s best.

Such is the case of the shepherd boy turned monarch and his major lack of judgement. I honestly had trouble believing it when Bathsheba confided in me. Certainly I could understand how any man would be swayed by her beauty. But first it was one thing, then another and another… and as she unveiled each new plot twist of the story my heart broke for both of them.

By now the whole kingdom knows what kind of man our sovereign is… He is a voyeuristic, lustful, conniving, wife-stealing, adulterer, who committed murder to cover up his wretched ways.  Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? And, indeed, it is. Who wants a ruler like that? Aren’t those in power supposed to be above the fray of life’s messes? Or, do we, just maybe, prefer someone in a seat of power whose day-to-day family life is as chaotic as ours? Could it be that it shows how human and ordinary they are?

Time elapsed and worry increased. Fear of being caught began to enter the scene. When confronted with his sin, David had two choices… more coverups, more lies, more asserting his standing and power, more murders, perhaps? Indeed, as I spoke to him in quiet whispers that cool day in his chambers, I wondered if my own life might be at stake… Or, the other choice: David could open his heart and concede to his disgraceful acts. When the Lord revealed David’s muddled mess to me and I challenged the king about it, our ruler did the right thing. The gravity of his actions began to make his heart race and his lips quiver. He uttered six words: “I have sinned against the Lord.”  And he began to sob uncontrollably. He fell to his knees and grabbed my tunic.

As his mentor and friend, can I say I’m proud of him? Lessor men, like his predecessor Saul, are full of excuses. Certainly David could have suggested it was a combination of Bathsheba’s and her husband Uriah’s doing. David might have blamed it on his wife Michal and her coolness to the way he worshipped before God. David could have invoked some sort of royal privilege, I suppose. No. Our king confessed.

He later showed me how he wrestled with Yahweh about this terrible sin. You know, David really connects with God through worship. So, the musician wrote a song that began with this plea: “Have mercy on me, oh God, according to your unfailing love…”

David knows that God and only God can blot out man’s transgressions. Only God can wash away our iniquities. Only God can restore to us the joy of His salvation.

God’s judgement against David and Bathsheba was to take the life of their son. Again, that is horrible. But God’s grace is new today, and every day. The royal couple will have another son soon. And God has assured me that His hand will be on this heir, in ways that reflect God’s steadfast spirit and astute wisdom. They will call this child “Solomon.”

 

Some of the words, actions and thoughts, perhaps, of Nathan the Prophet and David the King from 2 Samuel 11 and 12 and Psalm 51.

 

(c) 2016 Rich Ronald

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.