Friday, September 27, 2013

Gentle Rebuking

It was a stormy summer night that I got off work around midnight and ran to my car to find the entire inside of the driver’s seat and dashboard completely soaked by the heavy downpour that had recently moved on.  I was tired and now frustrated…ugh!  But you see, it wasn’t my fault, my brother, Jeff, and I worked at the same restaurant that summer and often shared rides to work.  He had driven us both in and then got picked up by one of our parents because his shift ended a few hours earlier than mine.  HE was the one who was in the driver’s seat on the way to work…HE was the one who left the window down!  And now I was the one paying for it!  The seat was beyond soaked…the floor was puddled with rain water…and the turn signal wouldn’t shut off!   I couldn’t believe he could be so irresponsible…so STUPID!

I began the drive home only to become more frustrated because not only had the rain begun to pour again, restricting my vision, but I also had to turn around and detour not just once but twice on my way home because of downed trees and power lines.  My 20 minute drive took almost an hour and by the time I pulled into the driveway, my tiredness and frustration had produced many tears and grown into a boiling anger that couldn’t wait to explode all over my brother.

I marched into the dark farm house, where Jeff and I still lived with our parents, and bounded up the steps, fueled by anger, straight to his bedroom.  I pounded on the door to wake him and started screaming that he better get up and go dry off the inside of MY car (it wasn’t really mine, just the one my parents let me use) because he was so dense that he couldn’t remember to wind up the window!  Woken from a deep sleep, he resisted and so I continued pounding and screaming.  He eventually began yelling back through the wooden door.  We made so much noise that it woke my parents whose bedroom was down a floor and in the opposite corner of the house.  My dad began yelling, asking what was going on, and so I “explained” not so calmly what an idiot Jeff was and what he had done.

I remember realizing that my dad went to go dry off and check out the condition of the car for himself and having some sort of exchange with him about how he shouldn’t be the one doing it.  I thought that my dad should make Jeff get out of bed to be the one to clean up his mess.  I don’t remember most of the specific words that were hurled around late that night, but I do remember marching back to my brother’s room one last time to scream one last insult, “I can’t believe you have to have your daddy clean up your mess for you!”  At that point, standing on the other side of the door from me, he punched the hollow door so hard that it left a hole larger than his fist through the bedroom side layer of the door.  The hole was left as a reminder of that explosive night.

I remember with shame my mistakes in handling that situation.  I remember that I didn’t feel any better after it was all over.  And I know that this wasn’t the response that Jesus teaches us to use to handle these situations…

So how does Jesus teach us to respond? 

He taught us by example, with gentle rebuking –

He let those who disappointed him, those who sinned, those who made mistakes, know that He loves them, but that they can do better. 

Jesus responded with love that included genuine forgiveness and showing His children a new path, not retribution, ridicule, or rejection.

In Luke, chapter 7, we learn of the Pharisee who invited Jesus to dinner.  Simon, the Pharisee, questioned Jesus’ authority when He allowed a sinful woman to wash and anoint His feet.  Jesus rebuked Simon and told him he could do better by following the woman’s example, since both Simon and the woman were sinners.

In the Gospel of John, when the church leaders brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, He did not get angry at them or at her.  But He offered a way out for both parties.  For the scribes and Pharisees, He rebuked them for their own sin, but also gave them a new path where they could do better by not condemning this woman.  For the woman, He rebuked and told her she could do better in one phrase, “go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” (John 8:11)

Another story told in John’s Gospel is of the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well outside of her town.  This woman was an outcast of society because of her numerous relationships with men.  As she begins talking with Jesus, He rebukes this woman by confronting her about her past.  But Jesus also shows the woman how she can do better by revealing that the Father welcomes those that worship Him in “Spirit and truth” (John 4:23).

And do you know what Jesus said to His disciples when seeing them after the resurrection?  Keep in mind that this was after He had been arrested in the garden…after Peter denied Him three times…after most had deserted Him at the crucifixion…and after Thomas refused to believe in His resurrection…

Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36, John 20:19, 21, 26)

He offered them peace, God’s peace.  Forgiveness and a new path.

He didn’t berate them, but he did rebuke them…gentle rebuking.  In Mark, chapter 16 verse 14, we are told that when “the eleven were at table, He appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart…”  Then he explains to the disciples their new path, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) He tells them that they can do better…and they did.

Looking back on that stormy night with my brother, I should have prayed for peace for the immediate moment.  I should have dried off what I could and spoke to Jeff and my parents in the morning.  At that time, I would have been able to explain calmly what had happened and discuss what needed to be done.  I could have reassured my brother that he was forgiven, but be clear about how he could do better. 

That would have been allowing Jesus to live in me, following His example.

Are you an exploder?  When someone– your children, spouse, co-worker, friend - disappoints you, do you become so angry that you put them down?  push them away?  or plan some sort of payback? 

If you are tempted to use hurtful words or actions as your response, take a moment (or a day) and pray for peace and guidance before you respond.  Resist the extreme response and use the example that Jesus has shown us in scripture.

1.  Rebuke them gently…Be upfront with them and let them know that what they did was wrong and not acceptable, but choose your words carefully.
2.  Encourage them that they can do better…Offer your personal forgiveness and let them know that they have another chance to make things right through a new path.

After all, if we are to be the hands and feet of our Lord, shouldn’t we also be his voice?

Thursday, August 8, 2013


I am dwelling.

A few weeks ago, I felt strongly led by God to go back and complete the tasks that he had put on my heart over the past year and a half.  He even told me that I shouldn't continue my current Bible study (Created for Purpose written by Tara Furman) until I have been obedient.

The list to obey was not that long...but the time it has taken to be obedient has turned into weeks..

In this "dwelling," I am not sitting back waiting for God.  He has been with me every step of the way.  He is actually leading me through the sins and issues that I need to work out.  I'm told it is a sign of spiritual maturity to dwell here...I don't bring this up to emphasize how mature I am now that I am dwelling, but to illustrate that as I moved on with life without stopping to obey God, I was an immature spiritual teenager, ignoring my loving Father's requests because I didn't think they were as important as what I had on my agenda for the day.  This was a realization that went straight to my good-Bible-study-girl heart...the one that puts getting the Bible study done ahead of Jesus himself (He should be my priority!).

I see now that I should have been "dwelling" after each prompting from God...working through it until the task was complete.  You see, I heard Him...I even wrote the messages down...but I was a "hearer" and not a "doer" on many of His commands.  But in Romans 2:13, Paul reminds us that "It is not those who hear the law who are just in the sight of God; rather those who observe the law will be justified."

God wants me to dwell in His Word, until He sees that I am ready to move on.  In these past few weeks, I have reflected on how my spiritual walk has evolved, and shared it with those closest to me (this was the hardest).  I have studied obedience in scripture (and still studying, there is more than you could imagine).  I have carefully read the book of Job (taking notes, because it can be a tough one).  I have meditated on worship songs in my Jesus time (so calming and inspirational).  I have purged two time-wasting activities from my life (yes, one of them was Candy Crush Saga).  And I am working on letting go of a few specific negative attitudes (it's progressing).

Please don't think this is a bragging is is a list of how GOD is working in my life!

God has led me each day to tackle one of His commands (personal commands revealed to me in my prayer time, not the big 10 found in Exodus, although many of those personal commands have their roots in those written on the stone tablets).  And they have all taken multiple days.  Yes, it has been a time commitment.  Yes, I have had to change my thinking and attitudes.  And yes, I have been humbled, over and over.

But it is so worth it!  God has promised many blessings on those who are obedient to His Word - both what is written in scripture and what we hear from Him personally in our quiet time.  One of these examples is in Jeremiah 7:23 "Listen to my voice and you shall be my people.  Walk in all the ways I command you, so that you may prosper."  Did you notice the word "all"?  Reread it with emphasis on "all."  Does it change your perspective?  It changed mine.

I so badly want to finish my study mentioned above on purpose, but God continues to tell me no, that I must be completely obedient first.  I realized that I have to dwell where I am, completing ALL that God has put in front of me, before I can move on.  Where will I move?

Chris Tomlin wrote a song called "I Will Follow."  It begins:

Where you go, I'll go
Where you stay, I'll stay
When you move, I'll move
I will follow...

Where will I move next?  I just have to wait until God shows me, so that I can follow.  But for now, I am dwelling.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Ugh! We demand it but don't want to do it ourselves. We want obedience from our children, employees, and politicians. But heaven forbid we obey our parents, husbands, or even God Himself. 
A Bible study* I was working through reminded me that we need to obey God. I thought I was doing a good job. Jesus said in John 14:21 “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.” I follow the 10 Commandments...I love Jesus. I don't worship other gods. I don't take the Lord's name in vain, usually. I keep the Sabbath by going to church. I pretty much honor my father and mother. I've never killed anyone or committed adultery. I don't steel anything from stores. I don't recall ever lying about my neighbor and I am basically happy with what I have. So far so good, right? I'm not perfect and I'll be the first to admit that I sometimes (okay often) fall short, but I thought I was doing pretty well with following Jesus' commands.

The lesson then turned to King Josiah. You may not have heard of Josiah before. His reign is buried in the book of 2 Kings, for about 2 chapters, right between his father and his son who both abandoned and did evil in the sight of the Lord. But Josiah was different. He found the Book of the Law, read it, and realized that he was making choices that were against God's law. From then on he obeyed God until his death. He destroyed everything to do with idols and “other gods.” and he required the people and priests of Judah to do the same. King Josiah was decisive, thorough, and radical in his obedience to God. Then the study asked, “Are you willing to be as radical when the Bible exposes wrong choices you may be making?”
Whoa...wait...slow I follow the commandments don't I? So why did this question make me feel so uneasy?
I was reminded that I have a section in my prayer journal that is filled with a list of things that I have felt in the past that God wanted me to do. Some simple...Read the book of Job, pray more. Some that made my stomach relationships, apologize for damage you may have caused. I was led to reread them.
I realized that these are my PERSONAL commands from God...they were God SPEAKING to me. Not that I didn't know that before, but it hit me so hard. The blow was even harder when I took note of how many I had not followed through on (most of them).
How have I responded to God's commands? Am I willing to be radical? Am I obedient?
Not so much...I had come face to face with the realization that I was the “rocky soil” from the parable of the seeds in Matthew 13:18-23. The seeds were sewn, I heard God speaking to me through His Word in church or Bible study, but it was forgotten and put off. I had not allowed God's personal messages to me to take root and so the seed died. I never before felt like I was being rebellious in not following through on these requests.
But I was.
I was not being obedient to the God of the universe, after he personally spoke to me. As I look back, it was a passive unwillingness to obey my God. But a rebellion all the same...a rebellion that I could no longer hold onto.
And so this is a new beginning of obedience. Literally, because to begin writing again was one of God's commands in my journal (actually He had given me this command twice). Obedience that is hard. Obedience that (as I type this) makes my stomach turn. But I know that God will bless me and give me greater freedom as I become a doer of His Word, and not a hearer only (James 1:22-25).
Reflect upon your own response to God...Has He put something on your heart that you are supposed to do (or not do)? Are you willing to be radical, if needed, to observe His commands? I challenge you to step out in obedience and see where God takes you.
*Tara Furman, Created for Purpose, Making a Difference in your Corner of the World, Knowing God Ministries, 2013