Hearing the Music!

God told me to tell you

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From time to time folks will approach me with questions on how to take advice from others who begin with, “God laid this on my heart to share with you.”  Of course, this can create a conundrum for the receiver of the advice if the receiver doesn’t agree with the advice given.  This can be especially true if it is from a friend or respected figure in their life. What if the issue in question is a matter of opinion? If I go against this advice, am I going against God? Or, what if you are the one making the suggestions? Is prefacing our comments like this a good route to take? Perhaps the following can help us navigate these situations:

1) If you are the receiver, as un-defensively as you can, try to listen and hear what your friend is saying and then weigh it with what you know to be true in God’s Word. We need to humbly hold out the notion that we have something to be gained. If you gain insight, thank them for sharing with you.

2) That being said, we need to be circumspect in the way we approach these conversations. Unless an issue is plainly laid out in scripture we must be careful of making our words the words of God and thus unduly containing the conscience of a brother or sister. While God does nudge our hearts and consciences immediately, he speaks most clearly to us through his Word. If you find yourself on the receiving end of this kind of advice, you may have to respectfully encourage your friend to make their case through Scripture. If you are the one offering the suggestion, please do your best to make clear that what you are offering is not "Gospel truth", and affirm that you respect them whether they follow your suggestion or not.

3) There are always folks who will disagree with our choices (parenting, how we use our resources, etc…).   As long as these are not moral issues you can politely agree to disagree. And then preach the gospel to yourselves. You are deeply loved by your heavenly Father and there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Satan (who is, after all, the accuser of the brothers - see Rev. 12:10) uses these disagreements as leverage points to discourage us and to put our eyes on ourselves rather than on Christ, who is our righteousness. Remember, you are IN CHRIST, which means that your heavenly Father sees no distinction between you and Jesus!

Living in community can be messy, but it is a mess worth making. Let us strive hard to be good receivers and good givers of counsel.

 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Are You Free?

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Pete Scazzero in his helpful book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality muses that “The critical issue on the journey with God is not “am I happy?”, but “am I free?” Here we are post Independence Day and once again freedom is squarely in our sights. Pharaoh finally capitulates and lets the Israelites go, but now that freedom is gained, what does it actually entail? This will be our focus as we dive into Exodus 12:33-51

My prayer is that our own musings will lead us to fresh appreciation of both what freedom is and what freedom is not. For instance, we must grapple with the notion that, as created beings, freedom does not equal a complete autonomy to do what we please. Just like my F150 is not made to run in Lake Michigan but is awesome to use hauling a load of brush to the landfill, so too we are made for a purpose that our emancipation from slavery unlocks. May the Spirit give us eyes to see what it is we have been saved to!

 

Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

Words of Delight

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It is great to be back and enjoying these warm summer days in Grand Rapids. Dallas has its own charm, but it has nothing on West Michigan! Dallas was however a great host for our General Assembly where Addison, Bob La Fleur and I attended as commissioners. 

A great encouragement for me, particularly this year, was the sense from the men and women at the assembly, that though we may not agree on everything, we need each other. One of the great strengths of the PCA is our commitment to being a “big tent” denomination. We are Biblical and confessional, so there are limits to the size of the tent; but within those generous boundaries there is room for interpretation and disagreement. Of course, allowing for a big tent also comes with the challenge of how to disagree well. We have not always done a great job of this, especially with the advent of the internet and the now dominance of the social media age. It has become easier and easier to disparage someone else’s opinion or simply attack someone else, either through the spoken word, the written word or the ever present “share”.

Interestingly the framers of the Westminster Larger Catechism dealt with this issue as well. It comes through most clearly in their treatment of the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment, i.e. the prohibition against bearing false witness. Keep in mind that the Assembly was made up of roughly 120 ministers working together over a 10 year period. There were numerous disagreements, disputes and conflicts that arose during this time; continually harmonious it was not. But here is what they said at the outset of their answer to Larger Catechism 145: The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbors, as well as our own, especially in public judicature. Bearing false witness is about more than lying. All prejudicing the truth and the name of another violates the heart of our Creator from which the law is drawn. With the public judicature in our pockets (i.e. cell phones) these days, is almost as if they could have been speaking directly into our present age.

This Sunday at Gracehillwe will be taking up Ecclesiastes 12:9,10: Besides being wise, the Preacher (or Teacher) also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.Similar to Westminster these are amazingly apt words for handling disagreements, particularly in the age of polarization we live in. The Preacher was careful with his words. He did not easily post or share but took time to weigh and study and arrange. He was upright in his dissemination of truth. Another way to say this was that the teacher was pastoral, not simply stating the truth and letting the chips fall where they may, but considering the totality of his audience. He was careful not to prejudice the truth to serve his own interest. He sought to finds words of delight, or as other translations put it “pleasant words”, “words of grace”. This itself is a delightful concept.

And so the challenge comes from the Preacher’s pen to our lips and our fingertips. May it be that our words -- in personal engagements and public discourse, in our online communities and religious assemblies, wherever we as God's people might employ them — would be so full of truth and uprightly considered that they would always be experienced as a delight!

 

Photo by Edho Pratama on Unsplash

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