Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Week Thirty-Nine - Rules for Peace

Beside the Well

James 3:18  “And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”
            I am still struck with the correlation between the days of Jeremiah Burroughs and our own.  Truly, man has not changed!  He constantly needs instruction.  As Reverend Burroughs addresses his congregation on the subject Blessed are the Peacemakers, he moves from the philosophy of wider society into the home and the neighborhood.  I’m afraid we, too, are still in need of these admonitions. 
            Let me list them for you.  Here are his rules for peace in the family.
1.     Be considerate – consider the pressures and temper of others as you approach them with requests and comments.
2.     Choose carefully the time to address grievances.  (Never poke a sleeping bear.)
3.     Address incidences individually.  Not everything is wrong or displeasing.  Look for and remember positives and your goal of peace.
4.     Motivate obedience out of love rather than fear.
5.     Address infractions from love and concern instead of anger.
            And here are his rules for peace in the church and community.
1.     Do not entertain gossip.
2.     Do not be quick to judge.
3.     Do not fall out with others before you have gone to God in prayer.
4.     Use private means of reconciliation before public ones. (Matthew 18)
5.     Work together in love.
6.     Put the rights of others first.  Be willing to deny yourself.
7.     Avoid envy – do good yourself and rejoice to see others succeeding.
8.     Strive to create a community where issues can be discussed and resolved amicably.
            All these rules can be supported with Scripture.  They are basic to Christian living and success in life.  However, we are often negligent in applying them.
            I don’t know about you, but I love a peaceful home.  The joy and rest that comes from living in a peaceful haven cannot be valued too highly.  One of my favorite verses on the building and beauty of the home is found in Proverbs 24:3-4.  “Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”

            A peaceful home doesn’t happen except the members follow the rules about how to make peace.  And a peaceful community is the same.  Oh, for more peacemakers in our homes, communities, and our churches.      

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Week Thirty-Eight - A Simple Flame

Beside the Well

            In the back of my old Bible is an outline preached by a dear pastor friend many years ago.  The first two points of his message have never left my mind. He was preaching from Mark 14 about the woman breaking the alabaster box and the precious ointment our Lord.  The disciples scolded her.  They did not understand the sacrifice of love she demonstrated.
            His two points?  A good work always costs us something and a good work is always questioned.
            As I sat today thinking again about these two points, I was reminded of what it can cost to serve the Lord.  Self-denial, obedience, the danger of being misunderstood or criticized, and being discounted in society are just a few.  Sometimes, I feel like I live in a time warp.  But when I look at all I have gained from serving the Lord; the costs pale in comparison.
            My life, and probably yours as well, will never be of major significance to vast society or be lauded on the evening news.  We are the ones who get on with doing our jobs, loving our families, paying our taxes and occupying space.  Hopefully, we are used of God in some manner to be a blessing to Him and to others along the way.  Our lives are just a simple flame. 
            Jose Navajo said, “The simple flame of a candle is more effective to fight the darkness than an impressive but ephemeral explosion of firecrackers” (p 109).  The woman’s sacrifice of her precious ointment was not done to receive a blaze of attention; it was just a simple flame.  She did what she could.  It cost her dearly, but her heart was in the offering.
            He went on to say, “Don’t focus on what astonishes, but rather what transforms” (p116).  The breaking of the box was her personal sacrifice.  The content was only astonishing because of its value.  She knew the transformation that had taken place in her life and wanted to express her genuine love. 
            The disciples, however, thought of her as a simple woman whom they could discount and ridicule.  But do you remember the words of our Lord?  “Let her alone…she hath wrought a good work…that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her”  (Mark 14:6-9).  Her good work cost her something, and through the centuries her example has been used of God to transform many.
            Her good work was also questioned.  How sad when our fellow Christians speak against us, question our motives, or try to undermine our service. God alone knows the true intention of each man and woman.  He is the only one credited with the ability to judge and discern the hearts.  The disciples thought she was wasteful and extravagant.  They believed they could have used the funds from that offering for something greater.  They totally misread the situation.
            How many times are we guilty of judging others?  We look at their actions and think we would have done it differently or better.  We allow pride to cause us to be like the disciples—totally misreading a situation.  Pride reigns.
            Understanding that a good work will cost and always be questioned enables us to keep serving even when others fail to perceive our motives.  Remember, we aren’t serving them anyway.  We are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:24)  She did not stop her good work because they ridiculed.  She performed the sacrifice of her heart as unto her Lord and was rewarded.
            Albert Einstein said, “Instead of being a successful man, seek to be a man of value.  The rest will come naturally” (p 116). Maybe we need to start looking at our Christian service in more simple terms.  Just be that simple flame; doing good works from a genuine heart of love and leave the rest with the Lord.

Quotes from Monday Mornings with my Old Pastor by Jose Navajo

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Week Thirty-Two - Black and White

Beside the Well

            Proverbs is one of my favorite books.  I love the way things are contrasted in black and white.  There is good.  There is evil.  There is right.  There is wrong.  It gives such insight into human nature and challenges me to look at my own motivations and choices. 
            While reading Matthew 25 I noticed three principles being taught by our Lord using parables that lined up with truths taught in Proverbs.
            Here is the good and right side.
            In verses 1-13 Christ tells the Parable of the Ten Virgins.  This teaches me I am responsible for my choices. I am to keep myself ready to meet the Lord.  Proverbs uses the example of the ant that prepares for the winter to teach me a similar truth (Proverbs 6:6-11). Proverbs 22:3 says the prudent sees what is ahead and prepares himself.
            Verses 14-30 give us the Parable of the Talents.  Here I learn to be wise in my investments whether with life or funds.  Proverbs 13:16 states that a prudent man will deal with knowledge in his affairs.  And Proverbs 27:23-24 instructs me to take good care of the things that have been given me.
            Finally, verses 31-46 tell the Parable of the Sheep and Goats.  This teaches me there is reward for those who are compassionate and giving.  Proverbs 11:17 says being merciful holds benefits for the giver.
            On the flip side—the wrong and/or evil.
            The unprepared virgins believed others should care for them.  They did not take their personal responsibility seriously. They were not prepared when the Lord called.  Proverbs 22:3 says the foolish are not prepared and so will suffer.
            The man with one talent lacked vision and motivation.  He took no notice of the example of others.  Matter of fact, he openly admitted he acted in fear and was proud of the fact he still had the one talent.  Proverbs 27:14 says, “…but a fool layeth open his folly.”  Meaning: a foolish man brags about his unwise ventures. 
            The parable of the sheep and goats reveals the goats as selfish and ungiving.  They cared about no one but themselves.  They were punished.  Proverbs 11: 17 finishes with, “…he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.”  The stingy hurt themselves.

            So, according to God’s word, prepared, productive and caring people will be rewarded.  Unprepared, unfocused and selfish people will be punished.  Such is God’s economy from the time of Solomon to today.

Week Thirty-Seven - A History Lesson

Beside the Well

            In 1600 William Shakespeare published The Merchant of Venice and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  In 1601 the 2nd Earl of Essex became the last person beheaded in the Tower of London and Elizabeth I addressed her final parliament. She died in March of 1603.  That same year, King James I united the crowns of Scotland and England and the Nine Years War was ended. 
            In 1604, under the authorization of James I, work on the Authorized King James Version of the Bible began.  In 1605 the Gunpowder Plot was foiled and Guy Fawkes was arrested, hung, drawn and quartered.  In 1607, Jamestown, Virginia is established as the first permanent English settlement in North America.
           By 1625 James I had died and soon thereafter England and Scotland were at war until 1644 in what became known as the Bishops’ Wars.  The English Civil war began in 1642.  Tea arrived in Britain in 1652 and the Great Fire of London ravaged the city in September of 1666.
            Needless to say, the first few years of the 1600’s were fraught with turmoil and unrest.  But during that time a preacher was preaching.  Jeremiah Burroughs, after several years in Rotterdam as a persecuted refugee, returned to England at the commencement of the civil war and began preaching to some of the largest and wealthiest crowds in England.
            His messages on the Beatitudes are so rich in thought.  They are a joy to read, now that someone has graciously updated the language. 
            This week I came to a particular section while reading the chapter “Blessed are the Peacemakers”.  Listen to what he writes and remember he is speaking to the elite of his day, the mid-1600s:
                        “Every one would fain have peace; but men and
                        women are loath that it should cost them anything.
                        What is the meaning of that?  Oh, they would fain
                        have peace, but they would fain have everybody
                        to be all of their mind; they would fain that they
                        might do everything whatsoever they pleased, and
                        nobody speak against it”  (p 183).
            I had to stop and gasp.  This is his description of the attitude of people living during his time—the 1600’s.  They all wanted the war to end, but no one was willing to pay the price for peace.
            They were fighting and warring because they wanted everyone else to agree with their position.  There was no surrender of rights for the benefit of the other.  They wanted to live without rule upon themselves while placing rules on others.
            It reminded me of what we see in the news headlines today and of the attitude of so many.  The old teaching of “my rights stop where yours start,” is a thing of the past.  We are trampling over others to get what we want without considering the end.  We don’t want to pay the price for peace; we just want to do what it right in our own eyes and no man judge us.  That is a definition of anarchy.
            Burroughs goes on to admonish, “But let us be willing to sacrifice what is our own and not God’s, especially when it is public peace.”
            I found that thought interesting.  To “sacrifice what is our own.”  What might that be?  Peace is not free. It always costs someone something. Think of the family as an example. There must be consideration of each other for peace to reign in the home.  Someone must take the first step in asking forgiveness.  Someone must allow the other to go first at meal times.  Everyone must carry their weight of duty for the good of the family.  We might not think of these as sacrifices, but anytime we yield our way to others in the pursuit of peace, we are sacrificing.
            The same principles apply in wider society.  We stand in line for the bus instead of pushing our way through.  We pay the grocer instead of stealing fruit from the stand.  We drive at the recommended speed limit to promote safety on the road.  Yielding to authority is a sacrifice for the greater public good and peace.
            Burroughs makes one exception.  We are not to sacrifice God’s directives.  He says, “The truth is, peace is never bought too dear but by sin.”  When we allow the philosophy of tolerance to create space for sin, we are not creating peace.  We are actually contributing to unrest, for sin never settles an argument.
            Burroughs goes on to say, “Well, I am resolved so long as I live, wheresoever God casts me, I will make it my endeavor that there may be peace where I live, and I will be at any cost that so I may procure it” (p 183).
            It leaves us with some questions.  Is our society so different from those in the 1600’s?  Are we not still biting and devouring one another to get what we want?  Are we guilty of going away from God-given principles to try to create some sort of false peace?  And yet, our world increases in turmoil and hatred?  Am I striving to create peace in my personal sphere?  Am I willing to pay the price for peace?  What am I teaching my children by my actions? What will history record of our generation?

Burroughs, Jeremiah, The Saint’s Happiness, Burroughs on the Beatitudes, Nicol’s Series of Commentaries, Beaver Falls, PA, USA, Soli Deo Gloria Publications