“Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem saying, ‘Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?….And He answered and said to them, ‘Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?'” (Matthew 15:1-3)
“The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).
Historians tell us the Pharisees started off well, as revivalists in a way, calling the nation back to faithfulness. Eventually, however, their insistence on righteousness settled down into a code of laws and rules. They went from being encouragers to harassers, from lovers of God to bullies and legalists.
The legalist is someone who says, “I know the Lord didn’t say this, but He would have if He’d thought of it!”
The legalist is smarter than God. He helps the Lord by completing His Word, by filling in the gaps where the Lord clearly forgot to say something, explain something, or require a thing.
“Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation” –Psalm 51:12.
Just because salvation is for eternity, anchored forever in the faithfulness of God, does not mean you cannot lose the closeness and fellowship with our wonderful Lord. A married couple can lose their joy and intimacy for a season, although the marriage is still valid and intact.
God’s faithfulness does not wax hot and cold depending on what we do or how we felt when we woke up this morning. He does not undo our salvation when we weaken and falter. The blessings upon us are conditional to our faithfulness and may dry up, but the relationship never varies. Forever, we are His and He is ours.
My children may be in or out of my favor at given times, but they are still mine.
“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6). “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
Mary Todd Lincoln was gifted in the dark art of sarcasm. Her sister Elizabeth said of her, “She was also impulsive and made no attempt to conceal her feelings; indeed, it would have been an impossibility had she desired to do so, for her face was an index to every passing emotion. Without desiring to wound, she occasionally indulged in sarcastic, witty remarks, that cut like a Damascus blade, but there was no malice behind them.” Lincoln’s biographer notes, “A young woman who could wound by words without intending to was presumably even more dangerous when angry or aroused.” (Honor’s Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln by Douglas L. Wilson).
Woe to the person bound in marriage to one gifted in sarcasm. Lincoln bore many a scar from the blade his wife wielded.
Pity the church member who sits under the teachings of a sarcastic pastor week after week. Such a pastor’s ministry will bear bitter fruit.
On our website, we welcome comments from friends who disagree, so long as they do so graciously. But from time to time, we receive tirades from the angry, onslaughts from the dark side, hurling slanderous accusations at us for daring to suggest that (take your pick) Christians should go to church, the faithful should tithe their income, or the Lord’s salvation is for all time. Such heretical positions, to be sure. (Not!) I’ve noticed a trend in some of these mean-spirited commenters, which provoked the following little essay….
“I know I’m right! I’m not going to change!”
When you are wedded to your position, you tend to a) become angry at anyone taking a contrary position, particularly if their point of view is the historically orthodox view with Scriptural support. In that case, you will need to b) justify your position and c) deal with scriptures that say something different.
a) You become angry with contrary views.
Each of us could learn a lot about ourselves by noticing what views on Facebook or in blogs pluck our strings. There has to be a trend, and that trend will reveal great insights about us.
“God is Watching.” –sign over the door of Gwen Williams’ home in Picayune, Mississippi.
John Ed Mathiston told his congregation in Montgomery, Alabama a story about kindness.
“Not long ago, a man from the Middle East walked into a new car showroom and asked to speak with a particular salesperson. The receptionist called for him, the fellow walked to the front, and they greeted each other.
The foreigner said, “I’d like to buy some trucks.”
Some trucks. That caught the sales guy’s attention.
“What did you have in mind, sir?”
“I want to buy 750 heavy duty trucks and 250 pickups.”
The salesman is stunned. Surely someone is pulling a prank. This cannot be happening.
The Middle Easterner pulls out a letter of credit with a huge American bank. It is legitimate. This is the real deal.
The salesman says, “Sir, you know you can go to Detroit and buy those trucks at a huge discount.”
“Give to everyone who asks of you” (Luke 6:30).
Everyone who works around the church office will identify with this.
From my journal of Tuesday, August 12, 1997…
In the afternoon, I took a phone call from a Don Peterson. “Remember me?” he said.
I said, “Refresh my memory.”
“My fiancée and I were in your services three Sundays ago.”
“Well, my father has died. In Ann Arbor, Michigan. I need some money for a plane ticket. I need to borrow it until Sunday.”
I said, “How much?”
I said, “How can I verify this?”
By laypeople, I mean non-preachers.
By speaking in church, I mean before large groups of the Lord’s people.
Many non-clergy are outstanding on their feet in front of large groups. Schoolteachers come to mind. But the typical church member, even one who teaches a Sunday School class, is out of his element when suddenly asked to deliver a talk in front of the whole church.
Marlene said to me, “I’m sorry I took the entire service, Pastor. But the Lord was leading me.” Translation: She really got into her talk and couldn’t control it. As a young pastor, I had invited church members to share testimonies in the morning worship service, something along the lines of 5-7 minutes. (Later, I learned to interview the individual and retain hold of the microphone the entire time!)
Since Marlene had not prepared adequately, once she got going, she couldn’t find a convenient stopping place. She kept on for a full 40 minutes.
Personally, I would not blame my failure to prepare on the Lord.
I see it happen all the time. It’s almost embarrassing.
At the end of a long day of touring the big city, the country boy is said to have knelt by his bed and prayed, “Lord, we saw a lot of things today. But I thank you I didn’t see a thing I want.”
“The ruler of this world is coming, and He has nothing in Me” (John 14:30).
Toward the end of His earthly ministry when our Lord was preparing the disciples for the difficult days ahead, throughout this Upper Room Discourse (John chapters 13-16), Jesus assured them He would not be leaving them as orphans. The Holy Spirit would be arriving in full force to supply everything they would be needing.
They should expect difficult days, He said. And make no mistake, He says, the devil is coming, too. (Perhaps He spotted that fallen angel peeping up from a garbage can somewhere.)
“Convince, rebuke, exhort….” (2 Timothy 4:2).
“Winston Churchill’s wife told him that loosing the election may turn out to be the best thing that could have happened.”
That statement from an online preacher’s magazine set off my inner alarm. The proper word is not “loosing,” but “losing.”
As an old high school English teacher, I know a little about these things. And I know that these things matter. (That is not to say I don’t slip up occasionally. I definitely do.
A couple of days ago, someone wrote to Smiley Anders’ column in our paper to bemoan the wrong placement of the word “only” in conversation and print. Someone may say, “There were five boys, but I only gave quarters to two of them.” See the problem? “Only” belongs before “two of them.” It should say, “There were five boys but I gave quarters to only two of them.”
Two days later, Smiley says the language maven wrote a followup note to say that the very day her gripe ran in his column, the editorial cartoon violated the “only rule,” with that word in the wrong place.
And I’m thinking, “Get over this, lady. If you go through life correcting everyone’s English, you have taken on a thankless job and unachievable task.”
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for me will find it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or, what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)
What do you have to give up to serve the Lord? Well, for starters, you give up your sin and guilt, your anguish and your lostness. You give up your waywardness and fears, your selfishness and your pride. You give up being lord of your own life and master of all your own choices.
Paul called this “presenting your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1).
It’s a daily exercise, by the way. While we wish we could do a one-time-works-forever thing, it’s not to be. “I die daily,” said the apostle (I Corinthians 15:31). And so do we, if we get this right.
Before long, as we grow in Christ, we begin to realize that not only did we give up a lot of bad things to come to Him and to serve HIm, now, He is asking us to give up some good things which happen to be outside His will for us.