4/30 Grace and Peace

2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

The knowledge of God is key to receiving grace and peace. Having God on your side is unbelievable. Peace is so necessary. It is as important as oxygen. It is a must. These come from knowing God through Jesus.

We know him because we believe and trust him. We believe he has forgiven us and is changing us. We believe him for Heaven and everything in between. It is reflected in our life through the love he has shown us and now demonstrated in us. We love like never before, even our enemies.

This knowledge brings us his favor. He is looking out for you. He has your back even when it doesn’t feel like it. This peace is to remove the mental chaos, to be able to rest in difficulties.

Thank him. Draw near to him in prayer. Expect and aim for his peace and walk in the knowledge of his grace. He has you covered…rejoice!

Schematic for Conflict Resolution

comHere is a schematic for conflict resolution. It takes emotionally mature people to handle it right. Unfortunately, I rarely find people who are willing and able to follow good practices without it getting emotional but why not challenge yourself to a better place.

  1. Bring up the problem…without emotion
  2. Let them ask questions to clarify, this person should not be defensive.
  3. Let them restate what they understood
  4. Then together come up with a plan to remedy it.
  5. You then let it go
  6. If need be you will mention again.
  7. It is important to note that after telling of the issue you let it go. Grace begets grace…

This grace issue is the most important part of the process. Without this no relationship can survive. When a list is made of offences, it is only a matter of time before someone cannot support its weight and then the problems really begin.

I read today that 67% of 2nd marriages and 73% of 3rd marriages fail. They said it was that people didn’t learn their lessons and change their behavior.

Learn your lessons and practice this on purpose next time you have an issue with a spouce or anyone else. Determine to get good at this.

Sorry, It’s the Rule!

ImagePulling out my wallet I looked at the teller waiting for my ID. I needed cash. With an expired license, I needed it to pay off a fine to make it valid and avoid a ticket.

I slid my ID in her direction. She paused “Do you have a valid ID?” “It has my picture on it!” I pleaded. “Sorry we need a valid driver’s license, this has expired.” smiling, as if she had given me an irresistible gift.

I calmed my voice “I need the money to pay a fine to get a current driver’s license.” I was boiling inside; frustrated. She smiled back and with a soothing voice “I’m sorry, it’s a rule.” I clinched and briskly grabbed my license and rushed out the door. Now this is a “catch 22.”

I could answer all the codes: “What’s your mothers madden name, SS number, birthday, account number, first pet, favorite color and even what I was doing the previous Wednesday.” Yet no withdraw. My license had a hole in it….but it had my picture with lots of vital information. It wasn’t good enough.

The smile. It killed me. “Sorry it’s a rule.” I had entered an alter realm, where common sense didn’t exist, it was resisted, apparently even banned as a prehistoric idea. “Sorry, it’s a rule!”

 I find this when we help people. A statement is made preceding the thoughtless law: “I never…”, “I always…” ”I never let people living with me do such-and-such.” “I always require them to do such-and-such.”

We must deal with insight, viewing each person as unique. This requires thinking, analysis of the particular situation, with a risk. Yes, it may not always go well but the risk of not considering the particular person and situation is that people are treated unjustly. We hobble them from moving forward.

We have experienced people using rules instead of care. Love will take the time to consider the particular situation and draw conclusions that will be form fit for that person.  This is how you help people. Hard and fast rules, applying them across the board isn’t how we care for people.

Here is an example: Two guys live at my house one is just out of prison and has trouble with meth and the other is a hard worker, former business owner with a marriage gone-bad but no substance abuse issues. The first cannot just run around and needs supervision, he can’t leave the farm for overnight visits with friend and has a curfew. The latter has free reign and just needs to makes steps for employment.

The first needs to do his work with the court and work on the farm. It isn’t time for getting a job.

Can you see one doesn’t need a job yet the other must find work. One can’t leave the farm except to do business with the courts and recovery and the other can do what he wants.

“Sorry, it’s a rule!” can really limit your ability to help people. Love will consider this and act appropriately for each given situation.

I use these axioms “How would I want to be treated?” “What we I need to help me move forward?” Now that is love applied!

Would You Do It For Christ?

I visit many Christians encouraging love and good works. That’s our job. I show we should love and help people. Everyone agrees which I find enigmatic. If this were statistically true Christians would way outnumber those in need and we would be colliding in activity amongst the poor. By the way there are 224 million professing Christian in the United States and 220,000 churches.

Christians Hard at Work.

In my community and the one I came from, I never had to fight over people in need, Pastors and Christians sent them to me. So why isn’t the agreement I find in conversation translated into action? There are two main errant theological perspectives that hinder action. The copouts are ”Not my ministry.” and “I would if Jesus called me to.”

“Not my ministry” assumes if you do not “feel it in your heart” you do not have to do it. Have you heard “I have a heart for them.” or “I don’t have a heart for them.”? This translates to, “If I don’t feel it, it isn’t my duty.” right? Or if you do not feel you can do it or are feel you are not gifted you shouldn’t do that particular thing. So it goes to reason, if you are not gifted in evangelism you aren’t required to evangelize or if you’re not divinely equipped for giving, you do not have to give. “I am not gifted in the spiritual gift of helps therefore you can count me out.” I’m glad my mother was gifted at changing diapers, I’d have been in a real mess.

“I would if Jesus called me to.” says “I’m surrendered in my heart.” and Jesus “knows my heart.” “He hasn’t told me to do such-and-such,” so I won’t. They won’t do a particular task and at times feel they shouldn’t. They are certain, if Jesus came down and sat with them and told them to do such-and-such they would. If He were to make a special appointment, they would know its importance and act. Or so they believe.

How does the command to love fit. Do we love if will feel He is calling us to by special appointment? Do we love when we feel a sensation of love in our heart? If we are to act in love will I have to be uniquely; divinely gifted? We know love is a command. We know if someone needs help, money, encouragement, food or a home; love reaches out.

If it is not my ministry to do such-and-such wouldn’t the love of Christ compel us nonetheless? All give but some are gifted, all help but some do it with divine gifting, all evangelize but some see more results, do you see what I mean? Because you do not have a particular spiritual gift doesn’t exempt you from helping, giving and evangelizing. Jesus has called us to love. He has commanded us through the Word to act on behalf of those in need. Jesus gave us his example and so did the early church. Does he have to command us in person for us to act. Or have we followed an industrial model? I make widget B and you make widget C. Are we afraid a cosmic union boss will scold us if we help widget C guy?

In particular, from the perspective of the needy, the one in need doesn’t care if you have the most or are the best, he just needs help. Yes, it is preferable to have a great evangelist but sometimes all they get is us. Are we going to shut up and wait for the evangelist or do our best? So you’ll help someone if you feel it, or Jesus comes and talks to you, or you have a great gift. But otherwise you wait with hands raised in hope for a heavenly flame.

How about be a company man. I’ve worked with guys who are always where the work is. They work and when done with their task, help others in their work. When out of work they find something productive to do. They do not wait for a special call from the boss. They already know his will and are about his work. They know the boss’ priorities and objectives. There are other employees who do their work and when finished wait for the next assignment. If they find something to do it isn’t always in line with the boss’ will. One works as if he is vested in the business thus like a son or daughter and the other is a hired hand.

Are you a hired hand or a son/daughter?

Superficial Grace

ImageGrace, forgiveness and long suffering have depths to be plumbed. I know each of us to some degree have been on both sides of these forces. We have given them and received them. Each has an appreciation for these to various degrees.

Suffering in relationships helps us grow to value grace. But many of us wisely avoid relationships that exact forgiveness from us or require our humble confession. Relationships can be painful and natural to avoid. I do not like doing regrettable things and it can hurt deeply to be abused. Keeping a distance from people and avoiding organizational obligations is therefore necessary to insulate us from complications.

Here is some good advice, keep relationships short in duration and shallow in depth. Avoid sticky subjects. If you must have a relationships, stick to safe people. Evade others’ complicated lives. Minister by appointment with a start and end time. Avoid giving your phone number and address to needy people. Do not commit to a church body or get into its politics. While this is not an exhaustive list, it’ll suffice. These ideas can keep your personal worlds clean and safe. There is a downside. It can keep you from experiencing God.

It is prudent and economical to guard yourself. You won’t be up late at night. Irritation from others will be vacant. You won’t be mistreated. Chaotic conflicts won’t bombard your mind. No tough decisions will need to be made. No one will misunderstand you. You won’t be maligned. The temptation to talk bad about people will be beyond reach. No one will steal from you or hurt your family. You will be well liked. Yet this is at the cost of a meager love, an unfortunate distance from the One we love.

Heaven isn’t meant to be here. It is something you long for and not just to escape this horrid world. It is also to have unencumbered relationships. You will have all the benefits of good, deep, healthy relationships without the garbage there.

I live in a home that is complex and ever changing. We have families, singles, addicts, alcoholics, sex offenders, and reprobates. We all live on the same property. Some live in the house, some in a travel trailer, some in the shop and a bunk house.

We do not hunt for these people. They come because we say “yes” to anyone who wants help. So we get lots of referrals from the community, Department of Corrections, and the Church. We wish the Church would help us but I guess they think it’s our gift, calling, ministry or Purgatory.

A few days ago a friend who we have helped in the past called me to be a designated driver. He was already drunk and a 40 min drive away. I went to the bar and had an O’Douls-a non-alcoholic beer-to oversee my friend. He had been aggressive in the bar and he was about to be kicked out. I arrived and calmed the situation. Those at the bar felt better that he had a sober friend to keep him out of trouble.

I finally got him out of there. Yet not before he called a gal out to fight, proposed to the pretty bar maid, and said grotesque sexual comments to an elderly lady. It was pretty ugly.

While getting in the car, a competition arose over the front passenger seat between the passengers. They began pushing each other for who would rule the shotgun position. He ended up on his back on the ground which ignited laughter from the audience outside the bar.

We drove to our town. I was wasting time to sober him up. We went to fast food drive thru. I made him shut up by keeping him distracted so he would not assail the young window attendant at Jack-in-the Box.

We went home. I warned the household to ignore his language, verbal assaults and non-sense. We watched part of a movie while he railed. He said he was going to leave in his car. I told him if he did I would call the Cops and tell them that he was driving drunk. We stayed there an hour but then he wanted to leave.

A friend and I went out in front of the house to wait for him. While we waited he snuck out the back door and raced off in his car. I immediately called 911. I was disappointed to have to make the call. I had previously warned him that if he left in his car I would report him.

By the time I was off the phone he drove up. He was pretty mad that I called the police.

As we waited for the police to arrive he berated me. I avoided being close to him as he spoke because I didn’t want to fight. He assaulted me verbally for almost an hour. He talked about me as a husband and father. Cut down my guitar playing and singing. He reminded me of my past and that my son was in jail. He said he would call Child Protective services because he doesn’t like that we spank our kids. He railed against my wife who he spoke against in a sexually derogatory way. He said I was a cult leader and controlling people and my theology of Hell was invented by me.

I was not worried about him hurting me. I just tried not to get upset and say something I would regret. I wanted to help him.

I received a call from the police; I told them he was back and had driven away and ended up coming back. So after confirming everything was good, the police didn’t come out. My friend got really lucky.

I felt pretty bad about the whole thing. I wondered what the benefit of it was. A smack in the face, a friend lost, one more soul destined for Hell was all I could see.

I went home pretty grumpy. I snapped at one person; not typical for me. Another person wanted me to acknowledge their birthday: I made a weak attempt. I just needed to be left alone to lick my wounds.

The next day he texted me a couple of times but I didn’t respond. He finally called me and I picked it up. He apologized and was kicking himself for what he had done to me. I let it go. I didn’t like how he treated me, it stung. The things he said and years of other events with him have cost me greatly in a variety of ways.

He wants help and said he needs a better environment to live in. He decided the best thing was to move in with me.

Now think about it. He isn’t a safe person. He has been unfaithful and abusive. My household is in jeopardy just having him around. He doesn’t deserve to have our intimate care. He has been rejected by family and friends. No one wants to deal with him.

I think this makes it sound easy to give grace and forgiveness. It wasn’t. It hurt to go through this. Yet I will love him. I will determine to give him my best. It is an act of will; obedience. This doesn’t come naturally; it didn’t mystically flow from my quasi-divine nature.

But there is no hope for me or him without help. We need people to give us grace and we need to give it. In his case we are his only hope. Through us this grace is shown. And by this we understand in a more profound way what Jesus suffers and how he is willing to walk with the dirty and vile.

We will continue to explore the depths of grace and longsuffering. We need the pain, we need to be forgiven. It doesn’t come through fairy dust or an alter call. The greater the exposure to relationships, especially costly ones, the greater the potential is to experience His love. Through administering this grace we gain greater personal peace; the knowledge of God.