SOFT ANSWER, DOUBLE VICTORY

Peacemaking Wisdom from Proverbs

Recently I’ve returned to a helpful practice I learned early on in my spiritual journey. Each morning I read a chapter of the book of Proverbs for that day of the month.

This time around I’m observing just how many verses contain valuable peacemaking insights. When I come across such verses, I often consult my favorite commentary on Proverbs by Charles Bridges.

Two days ago I paused on verse one of chapter 15:

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Bridges’ thoughts make for a worthwhile read:

WHAT a mine of practical wisdom is this Book of God! Let us ponder this valuable rule for self-discipline, family peace, and Church unity. Scripture often illustrates the different effects of the tongue. The soft answer is the water to quench–Grievous words are the oil to stir up, the fire. And this is, alas! man’s natural propensity, to feed rather than to quench, the angry flame. We yield to irritation; retort upon our neighbour; have recourse to self-justification; insist upon the last word; say all that we could say; and think we “do well to be angry.” (Jonah iv. 9.) Neither party gives up an atom of the will. Pride and passion on both sides strike together like two flints; and “behold! how great a matter a little fire kindleth!”  (Jam. iii. 5.) Thus there is the self-pleasing sarcasm; as if we had rather lose a friend, than miss a clever stroke. All this the world excuses as a sensitive and lively temper. But the gospel sets before us our Saviour’s example; imbues with his spirit; and imparts that blessed “charity, that is not easily provoked;” and therefore is careful not to provoke a chafed or wounded spirit. If others begin, let us forbear from continuing the strife. ‘Patience is the true peace-maker.’ Soft and healing words gain a double victory—over ourselves and our brother.

Two for the price of one. You can’t beat that.

A BIRTHDAY GREETING TO MY BRIDE

63 Reasons I’m Crazy About You

Jan Leslie, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

I’m crazier about you more than ever.

Here are 63 reasons you might like to know–just sayin.

One, you love Jesus more than me.

Two, family matters to you, bigtime.

Three, your gift of encouragement.

Four, your gift of mercy.

Five, your gift of music–piano every night!

Six, your love for creation.

Seven, your passion for taking pictures of just about everything.

Eight, your compassion for the hurting.

Nine, your love of my cooking.

Ten, your inquisitive nature.

Eleven, your delight in other people’s stories.

Twelve, your joy in playing games.

Thirteen, your Costco joke.

Fourteen, your incredible smile.

Fifteen, your guarding of our oneness.

Sixteen, your ministry of greeting cards.

Seventeen, your ministry of soup making.

Eighteen, your willingness for me to rub your feet.

Nineteen, your reading through the Little House books with me.

Twenty, your partnership in doing hospitality.

Twenty-one, your insistence that we walk and workout.

Twenty-two, your healthcare experience for my aging body.

Twenty three, your infectious laugh.

Twenty-four, your modesty.

Twenty-five, your gracious, forgiving spirit.

Twenty-six, your being easily led.

Twenty-seven, your generosity.

Twenty-eight, your courage in facing the unknown.

Twenty-nine, your view of every little child as “How cute!”

Twenty-nine, your hope one day to see a moose.

Thirty, your flexibility (middle name).

Thirty-one, your fierce desire to know more.

Thirty-two, your teachability.

Thirty-three, your commitment to discipleship.

Thirty-four, your fear of God.

Thirty-five, putting your hand to this plow.

Thirty-five, for teaching me to pursue my grandkids more.

Thirty-six, for telling me “I’m proud of you.”

Thirty-seven, for watching some football with me.

Thirty-eight, for editing my writing.

Thirty-nine, for laughing every time I say that thing.

Forty, for wanting to understand me better.

Forty-one, for being willing to live in Idaho.

Forty-two, for actually liking the mobile home.

Forty-three, for walking by faith and not by sight.

Forty-four, for shooting straight with me.

Forty-five, for not expecting me to read your mind.

Forty-six, for letting me say the same words to you every night.

Forty-seven, for never going to sleep at night angry at me.

Forty-eight, for loving the mountains as much as I do.

Forty-nine, for letting me abscond with you to Idaho.

Fifty, for being totally gorgeous.

Fifty-one, for being my very best friend.

Fifty-two, for being my cheerleader.

Fifty-three, for doing premarital counseling with me.

Fifty-four, for never shaming me.

Fifty-five, for being quick to forgive.

Fifty-six, for loving to grocery shop.

Fifty-seven, for not loving any other kind of shopping.

Fifty-eight, for always believing the best.

Fifty-nine, for loving to drive as much as possible.

Sixty, for being so relationally wired.

Sixty-one, for NEVER being insecure about a statement about  Nancy.

Sixty-two, for loving me so fiercely, truly, and unconditionally.

Sixty-three, for making this way too easy for me.

I love you, BG!

May the Lord grant us many happy returns together.

 

A JOYFUL PRIVILEGE

My Opportunity to Preach this Sunday at OGC

Two years ago August I stepped aside from my role as pastor-teacher at Orlando Grace Church.

This Sunday, September 20, 2020, I have the joy to return to that pulpit for the first time in two years. God’s timing is always perfect.

I plan to preach from Acts 15:36-41. The title of the message is “When Relationships Rupture.”

Service are at 9:30 AM and 11:00 AM. Much prayer is coveted for the morning!

Jan will be with me (OF COURSE!) and it would be our great delight to greet any who are free to join us.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

 

Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People came on the market again last May with a 30th anniversary edition.

The New York Times best seller—over 40 million copies sold—may be known best for one quote in particular. “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

If we will practice “Habit 3: Put First Things First,” then we must determine our ultimate priorities and stick to them.

This matters for us as individuals, but it is true as well for our churches. The apostle Paul addresses a first order of business in a letter to young Pastor Timothy:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

Every pastor’s solemn responsibility is overseeing the proper conduct of corporate worship. Paul’s exhortation about how to do that involves keeping the main thing the main thing.

What is that?

All Kinds of Prayer

He piles up four different words for prayer, each with a different nuance, to emphasize that churches must prioritize prayer in their public services.

For whom should we pray?

All Kinds of People

We must pray for all kinds of classes and types of people. But Paul singles out one group in particular—governing officials at every level. Intercede for men and women with the greatest obligations and the widest powers for evil and for good.

Why pray especially for leaders?

All Kinds of Peace

We should place such a high value on societal calm that we make it a regular focus of corporate prayer.

In these days of COVID-19 disruption and racial injustice protest/rioting, we need our churches asking God more than ever for the wisdom, courage, and integrity of civil authorities to govern well for our peace.

This is good and God will be pleased.

WHEN LOSSES MOUNT

A Promise of Comfort for a Year of Woes

Anyone else wishing for a reboot to 2020? If only it were possible.

First there was COVID-19, its interminable lockdown, and challenges over church reopening.

Then came a notice from Baker Publishing: your book is going out of print due to lack of demand. I had hoped for more; what author doesn’t?

Next up from my ENT doc. “You’ve got three issues with your vocal chords. You need meds, therapy, perhaps surgery.”

Lately, I experience along with the rest of the nation the crisis over George Floyd’s killing and other incidents like it. Once again we confront the ugliness of racism and a church/country often divided as to how to foster change.

All of the above are hard, but none more personal than Dad reporting most recently, “Mom’s Alzheimer’s has turned for the worse: she is bed-ridden, has no appetite, and she is sleeping a lot.” Enter hospice for a third time in my life-is-a-vapor journey.

There is more, but to share further would violate confidences.

And this with only half the year gone! Sometimes it feels so overwhelming.

Where to find comfort?

I’ve been meditating some on the Beatitudes of Jesus in Matthew 5. Last week I paused over the second of these wisdom pearls for kingdom happiness: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (5:3).

That morning I pulled from my library Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and devoured chapter five about this truth with a promise.

Like the first, poor in spirit (5:2), this too is entirely spiritual in its meaning. Linking them both he writes:

We have to be poor in spirit before we can be filled with the Holy Spirit. Negative before positive. . . . [Likewise] a real sense of sin must come before there can be a true joy of salvation. Now that is the whole essence of the gospel.

MLJ cites two examples of this kind of mourning.

He begins with Jesus–the man of sorrows acquainted with grief–who burst into tears at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:35) and wept over Jerusalem destined for destruction (Luke 19:41-44). This was, of course, not for any sin on his part, but for the grief felt so deeply over the consequences of sin in the world.

Then he points to the the apostle Paul’s testimony in Romans 7, so grief-stricken in agony that he cries out “Wretched man that I am!” and “In me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing.” Paul grieved mightily over the impact of sin in his own experience.

Lloyd-Jones insists we must likewise see our utter helplessness and hopelessness when confronted with God and His holiness. “I must mourn about the fact that I am like that.”

But we must not stop there. We must mourn because of the sins of others as well.

The man who is truly a Christian . . . is concerned about the state of society . . . and as he reads his newspaper he does not stop at what he sees or simply express disgust at it. He mourns because of it, because men can so spend their life in this world. . . . He knows that it is all due to sin; and he mourns because of it.

We will never get to the comfort Jesus promises, if we suffer from a defective sense of sin and a defective doctrine of sin.

There is much afflicting our world today that thus far feels way above my paygrade for posting solutions and positions. Perhaps some of that will come after much more praying, listening, and reflecting.

But for now, it is enough to feel the crushing weight of sin so manifest in viruses, injustices, killings, diseases, riots, and more.

The promise of comfort leading to a serious, multi-faceted joy will have to wait for the next post. It can’t come soon enough, but there is no bypassing the mourning to get to the comfort.

I CHOOSE TO THANK YOU

An Original Song by Guest Blogger, Jan Leslie Heffelfinger

I wrote this song many, many years ago, but it has really been on my mind this week. “The hits just keep coming,” as Curt likes to say.

The needs and hurts of people we love and in our own lives can be so overwhelming . . . and by coming to love new friends in Idaho, that has only increased!

The Lord is reminding me this week that in any and every circumstance I can choose to thank him for his presence with me, his faithful love for me, and that he is in control even when I don’t understand. He is sovereign, and he is good.

Here is the text of the song–(don’t be confused by “thank you for my wife” . . . I wrote the lyrics so that it could be sung by a group):

Thank you for my family- thanks for where I live

The work that you’ve provided- the friendships that you give

Thank you for my husband- thank you for my wife

Or thank you that I live alone, and you complete my life

 

I choose to thank you, Lord,

Even when the words come oh, so hard

Even when my heart is weak and sore

Even when I’m feeling battle-scarred

I choose to thank you, Lord,

I have learned you know what’s best for me

Holy Spirit, do your work in me so I will be like you

I choose to thank you, Lord.

 

Thank you for this trial that shows how weak I am

That brings me to my knees at last to try and understand

Thank you for reminding me, I’m weak but you are strong

It sends me running back to you, and that’s where I belong

 

 

 

A WAY OF LOVE IN THE NEW ABNORMAL

Ten Resolves from 1 Corinthians 13 for COVID-19 Reopening

My truck registration needed renewal. The Idaho County county courthouse finally opened again for business last week.

Upon arrival I was immediately greeted with what I call the new abnormal post-Coronavirus.

A LINE!

It stretched into the hall with six feet between folks required no less.

I didn’t move to rural America from crowded Orlando to wait in any more insufferable lines, or traffic for that matter!!

Welcome to the new not-so-normal world of emerging from COVID-19 lockdown.

Then I heard that painful, still, small inaudible voice–again.

“Curtis Heffelfinger (that’s what Jan calls me when she wants to get my attention), you are still not the most patient man on the planet, eh?”

Um, I guess not.

Then I remembered the sermon I had just preached the previous Sunday, Mother’s Day, “The Greatest of These”–1 Corinthians 13:1-13.

I wondered how the love chapter’s verses 4-7, which detail love’s active ingredients, might shape my way and perhaps others forward through the pandemic recovery.

I arrived at the following ten resolves, all desperately requiring the Lord’s help for my weakness:

One, I will manifest patience as I wait in lines for needed services, dutifully standing on my X marks the spot.

Two, I will treat essential workers and everyone I encounter with kindness, thanking them for their service with a smile.

Three, I won’t envy younger people wishing that I at age 67 were at lesser risk than they.

Four, I won’t boast that I happen to live in a county which still has only three confirmed cases. I could just as easily still be on lockdown with those I love in Central Florida.

Five, I won’t be rude to others who differ with me about the innumerable COVID-19 challenges which generate such wide and vigorously held opinions.

Six, I won’t insist on my own way in leading our church forward but rather carefully listen to the concerns of our people and the counsel of my fellow elders before arriving at decisions.

Seven, I won’t give way to irritability with others. Rather I will overlook offenses whenever possible, allowing for the real effect of denied privileges and even significant losses in their lives.

Eight, I won’t succumb to resentment for the Lord’s providence in permitting a pandemic He could have just as easily prevented.

Nine, I won’t rejoice in the evil of unrest, rebellion, and incivility which abound, but rejoice with every truth yet to be revealed about these once-in-my-lifetime experiences.

Ten, I will bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things, whatever the new abnormal brings, because I’ve built my house upon the rock of Jesus and His truth.

No rain, floods, winds, or virus can beat upon this house to make it fall (Matt. 7:24-27).

That alone explains such resolves of love and the grace to act, albeit imperfectly, upon them.

And so I must ask:

Is your house built upon the rock and in these difficult times does the fragrance of love fill its every room?

UNITY IN A DIVISIVE CULTURE

Zacharias & Chan on Rights, Opinions, & Convictions

While watching an unrelated Francis Chan video, I noticed this intriguing ten-minute piece from a peacemaking conference.

The speakers give their answers to this question posed by someone at the event:

How do we unify the church when the culture views our beliefs as oppressive, and without compromising our convictions?

Both come from different angles but meet in a hysterical middle!

Their insights are helpful for such a challenging issue.