A STRATEGY FOR LOVING LIFE AND SEEING GOOD DAYS

How Peacemaking Commitments Make for the Good Life

Blaise_Pascal_2

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), the French philosopher warned:

Let it not be imagined that the life of a good Christian must be a life of melancholy and gloominess; for he only resigns some pleasures to enjoy others infinitely better.

The apostle Peter, writing to believers suffering severe persecution, would concur with that sentiment. Consider his words in 1 Pet. 3:8-12.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For
“Whoever desires to love life
    and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
    let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Verse 10 holds out hope that Pascal knew what he was talking about. “Whoever desires to love life and see good days.”

Know anybody who does not want that? Nobody in his right mind wants to hate life and see bad days. We all want the best life has to offer.

Few things can threaten a Christian’s sense of happiness and well-being like their church imploding with conflict.

The summer our church melted down I recall for many among us at OGC as some of our worst days. Loving life fell far short of how any of us would describe our experience.

If King Solomon got it right in Prov. 17:14 (and of course he did)–“The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.”–then heeding Peter’s advice here makes a lot of sense.

The best church fight we will ever have is the one we never experience. We all have to get equipped with this kind of strategy particularly as it pertains to countering evil when it rears its ugly head in our relationships.

I will warn you up front. The strategy prescribed here flies in the face of the world’s approach. This is a distinctly counter-culture way to fight for the good life.

But Peter has been arguing ever since 1 Peter 2:9-10 that, based upon who we are as God’s chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation, and treasured possession–based upon these extraordinary appointments of grace–we must make certain radical commitments.

We must determine to conduct ourselves in strategic ways with God’s help in all kinds of places–from the state, to the home, and now, wrapping this section up with Finally in v. 8–the church.

Here’s the main idea I think he is saying: Our extraordinary identity as God’s people calls for radical peacemaking commitments in the church.

There are three. They are showing grace (8), refusing revenge (9a), and giving blessing (9b-12). Future posts will unpack each in the interest of loving life and seeing good days.

LIVING IN PEACE & THE KISS OF LOVE

How Striving for Peace Fuels the Kiss of Love

peace

A church at odds will not likely have many of its folks practicing the gospel virtue of greeting one another with the kiss of love (1 Pet. 5:14). Perhaps that’s why Paul finishes the way he does in the passage under consideration in this latest series of posts.

After emphasizing the role of joy, wholeness, submission and agreement for enhancing the practice of greeting with a holy kiss in 2 Cor. 13:11-12, the apostle Paul ends with one final factor.

“Live in peace.”

Rejoice, aim for restoration, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace.

So many texts of the New Testament point us to this last virtue. Consider Heb. 12:14:

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

It is the duty of the church to strive for peace, to work hard at peacemaking, as those shaped by the gospel of the ultimate peacemaker, Jesus, who reconciled us to God (2 Cor. 5:18).

Notice the sweet promise with which Paul finishes for the church that prizes these five things: and the God of love and peace will be with you.

The God who supplies love and peace, given that’s His nature, will abide with the church in a special way with that love and peace. Of course inherent with the promise comes the warning that to fail to do these things means He will withdraw the same.

If we consistently do these things–rejoice in God, aim for perfection, submit to godly, gospel-laced, Bible-saturated authority, agree on the truth, and strive for the peace of our church–we stand to excel as one holy kissing bunch of believers!

Not that I necessarily want to say that you go out and from now on do the peck on the cheek thing. But as a rule something more may befit us than the token handshake of our culture.

Holy hugs (men with women and vice versa remember – side hugs or A-frame only) capture a whole lot more of the spirit of what the Bible teaches here than the casual wave or minimal greeting.

Let me leave you with this one thought. If the idea of giving someone else in the body a holy kiss seems unpleasant, even repugnant to you, you more than likely have some peacemaking to do.

Determine to rely on Jesus’ peacemaking power and the gospel’s impetus to help you engage others with a holy, tangible intimacy.

Greet one another with the kiss of love.

 

LIKE-MINDEDNESS & THE KISS OF LOVE

How Agreeing on the Truth Fuels the Kiss of Love

agree

Our church learned the importance of the lesson of this post the hard way. Unity disintegrated big-time over major doctrinal differences. It was ugly, according to those who endured it.

After emphasizing the role of joy, wholeness, and submission in enhancing the practice of greeting with a holy kiss in 2 Cor. 13:11-12, the apostle Paul turns to yet another significant factor.

“Agree with one another.”

The text reads literally in the Greek this way: the same thing, think. I call it like-mindedness.

Paul says this kind of thing a lot in his epistles. He likes this command.

For example in Phil. 1:27 we read, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”

Phil. 2:2 provides another example. “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”

He doesn’t lobby for uniformity in all thinking. It’s not possible. But he does argue for a oneness of mind about especially the priority of the gospel in the community of faith.

He pleads for a focus on the truth so passionate that when it comes to the essential truths of the gospel and the great doctrines on which it depends, as opposed to any kind of false teaching, let us all be thinking the same thing.

John MacArthur credits this reality significantly for the unity enjoyed at Grace Community Church over the years:

I’ll tell you right now, the key to living in peace is having the same thoughts, isn’t it? One of the reasons this church is so harmonious, one of the reasons this church doesn’t split up and fracture all the time is because we believe the same things. And whenever…listen carefully…and it’s only really occurred once in my tenure here, there has been a fracturing of this church, it is because some people believed something different was true and we didn’t have that truth. Where you have a common grasp of the Word of God, you have the commonality that perpetuates itself in peace. But when you get some people who start teaching something different, then you create the fracture. So if you’re going to live in peace, you have to be like-minded and submissive to the truth and expressing joy in that truth.

For this reason among others I rejoice that OGC is a confessional church. A document like the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith helps us do that by spelling out the truth so we know what we believe together.

Does your church have a clear statement of faith upon which you can agree? It definitely helps make for a unity that fuels the kiss of love.

SUBMISSION & THE KISS OF LOVE

How Following Leadership Fuels the Kiss of Love

File'-Saint_Paul_Writing_His_Epistles'_by_Valentin_de_Boulogne

When you blog as a pastor you never know. Does anyone read what you write?

I was both blessed and bothered recently by a report. Someone told me they were glad I have been writing lately on the New Testament exhortation to greet one another with a holy kiss (2 Cor. 13:12).

Great. Score one for this pastor/blogger. Somebody actually reads these posts. My elation was soon tempered.

“We think your church has become unloving.” Ouch. So much for self-congratulation.

Guess I need to keep hammering away at this subject.

In the first post I explained how the gospel shapes our community with oneness when we engage one another intentionally by greeting with the holy kiss of love.

In the second post I emphasized how rejoicing in the Lord is the first of four things Paul proposes for motivating the practice of greeting one another with a holy kiss.

In the third post, I unpacked how aiming for restoration–setting high goals compels doing the holy kiss thing in church.

In this post we turn to the next imperative in Paul’s arsenal from 2 Cor. 13:11 to promote his unity purposes at Corinth: submitting to the leadership.

The ESV offers an alternative in the margin to the next command, comfort one another.

For reasons I won’t elaborate on, I prefer the footnote. Listen to my appeal.

Throughout this letter Paul has brought apostolic correction in the way of inspired teaching designed to cure what ails them as a church.

It is imperative that they heed his counsel and follow his instruction if they have any hope of righting the ship, mending their ways, and going on to maturity.

In this he directs them yet another time away from the destructive influence of the false teachers plaguing the fellowship and draws them back into the safety of his pastoral and apostolic leadership.

In a community, some have to lead and others have to follow. Elders don’t possess apostolic authority, but God has entrusted them with ecclesiastical authority for which they will give an account (Heb. 13:17).

Without order in leading and following you have little likelihood of a church of peace where love can be readily expressed including things like the holy kiss.

Thus Peter says in 1 Pet. 5:5: Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

John MacArthur put it this way:

There must be a character of submission in the church in that it submits itself willingly to the authority of God, to heed all the appeals based on truth, all the calls to righteousness. Paul is saying to the Corinthians, “Look, if you’re going to be the kind of church you ought to be and enjoy the perfection that I desire for you . . . there needs to be a pervasive submission to that which is authoritative from the mind of God to you.”

Nobody likes the “S” word. I get that. But rightly understood, it matters greatly for preserving the gift of unity in the church.

Submissive types hug; rebels self-protect. Which are you?

THE GOAL OF THE KISS OF LOVE

How Aiming for Restoration Fuels the Kiss of Love

goals

Does your church have goals? The apostle Paul prescribed an important peacemaking one for the church at Corinth in 2 Cor. 13:11. Aim for restoration.

Recently I’ve been writing about the kiss of love (1 Pet. 5:14) as a gospel grace for guarding unity in the church.

In the first post I explained how the gospel shapes our community with oneness when we engage one another intentionally by greeting with the holy kiss of love.

In the second post I emphasized how rejoicing in the Lord is the first of four things Paul proposes for motivating the practice of greeting one another with a holy kiss.

Another factor in guarding unity through practicing gospel greeting is setting our church sights high for what Paul calls “restoration.” This matters a great deal for all churches but especially for those marred by a history of conflict.

Aim for restoration. He used a form of the same word back in v. 9. Your restoration is what we pray for.

The idea behind the word is to be made complete, whole, perfect in the sense of mature, put thoroughly in order. It’s used in the gospels for the mending of nets and in the culture for setting a fractured bone.

The same root appears in Eph. 4:11-12 concerning the role of gifted people in the church to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry so that the body can be made whole and mature.

See also Gal. 6:1-2 where it applies to helping restore spiritually someone trapped in sin. We might translate it mend your ways.

The Corinthian community lacked in so many ways. Paul exhorts them to set their aim high at cleaning up their act. Make right the wrongs. Get their ducks in a row. For just one example, consider 2 Cor. 12:20.

For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.

Now there was a church with a lot of work to do in cultivating a culture of peace! Paul exhorts them not to settle for such a distorted form of community but to aim for something far superior.

In my next post I will share a number of concrete ways a church can aim at the perfect in this all important virtue in our gospel-shaped community.

You won’t likely offer the holy kiss of love to some member of the body you’re fighting with. You’re more likely to hide from them in the cave so as not to even make eye contact.

God help us to aim higher!

 

JOY & THE KISS OF LOVE

How Rejoicing in God Fuels Greeting with Love

hugs

I married a hugger.

Jan loves to greet folks she knows with a warm embrace. She’s just about the best example I know of someone who takes seriously the Bible’s command to greet one another with a holy kiss (2 Cor. 13:12). She’s turned me into more of a hugger!

In my last post I wrote about the kiss of love (1 Pet. 5:14) as a gospel grace for guarding unity in the church. The gospel shapes our community with oneness when we engage one another intentionally by greeting with the holy kiss of love.

The way I see Paul’s flow in the argument makes me think we most likely will embrace his command in 12, or some modern-day, culturally appropriate version thereof, IF we take seriously and obey all five of his rapid-fire, staccato, summary-of-the-book imperatives in 2 Cor. 13:11.

 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

I call them five virtues which must be operative in a gospel-shaped community if it’s going to show genuine, holy intimacy in relationships: rejoicing in the Lord, aiming at the perfect, submitting to the leadership, agreeing on the truth, and striving for the peace.

The first is rejoicing in the Lord. Finally, brothers, rejoice. Some translations have farewell. And it can mean that. The Greek word became a familiar form of greeting and parting in the New Testament world.

But the word literally is, as rendered by the ESV, the word for rejoice. Paul ends the same way in Phil 3:1 – Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord and Phil. 4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Paul made it very clear in the opening of the letter, 2 Cor. 1:24, of his priority agenda in this regard – we work with you for your joy.

This way of saying hello and/or goodbye doesn’t differ all that much from the Jewish salutation shalom. Peace be to you. It conveys a certain sentiment, blessing, and hope for the party given the greeting.

It is decidedly vertical in its trajectory, for the object of rejoicing isn’t in one’s circumstances which vary substantially, but in God who always remains the same and always works all things together for a believer (Rom. 8:28).

People grounded in the bedrock theology of God’s sovereignty that contributes a deep running current of joy in His control of everything best fight against anxiety and more often than not bear the fruit of the Spirit that is joy (Gal. 5:22-23).

And because they keep their eyes on Jesus on the throne and the certainty of His love in the gospel, they possess a power to rejoice even in suffering and touch others with tangible, holy forms of intimacy rather than drown in a sea of self-pity that ignores the needs of others.

What greater need do we have than to be loved by others?

Consider giving more attention to your greeting ways in the church fueled by your rejoicing ways in God.

WHEN A KISS ISN’T JUST A KISS

How Greeting with a Holy Kiss Promotes Unity in the Church

holy kiss

I love how the apostle Paul closes out his second letter to the Corinthians. “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (2 Cor. 13:12).

My aim in this post and others to follow is to show how taking this command seriously can serve to guard oneness in your church.

What is a holy kiss? The adjective tips us off that he means nothing sensual at all. Yet it still involves physical contact. This gesture promotes spiritual purposes, not amorous ones.

In the ancient world, among the Jews and other cultures, even in parts of the world today, people greeted each other, normally males with males and females with females, by a light touch of the lips, first on one cheek and then on the other.

The early church adopted the same, often after baptisms as a way of welcoming new converts into the church and during communion to welcome repentant folks who returned to the table.

We find this same exhortation in several other places in the New Testament (see Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 1 Thess. 5:26; and 1 Pet. 5:14 where Peter calls it the kiss of love).

This mattered.Why does Paul close his letter on this note, other than the familiar benediction in 2 Cor. 13:14? What would possess him to direct them to make sure they engage in such an intimate, personal expression of love toward one another as a holy kiss at the close of things?

It has everything to do with the kinds of issues he addresses in this most personal letter he has just written to them. The Corinthian church experienced trouble on multiple fronts. They suffered division in their ranks (2 Cor. 12:20), corrupt teaching from false apostles (2 Cor. 11:4), grave sin that needed discipline and restoration (2 Cor. 2:5-8), among other things.

So writing both to address these things and to defend his apostleship which had come into question, Paul now wraps up the letter to put a summary recap on everything he has said.

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

He reveals his pastoral heart in love. Notice he calls them brothers (all inclusive, men and women). That’s important, as a term of endearment, because the immediate context, shows Paul delivering a scorching rebuke, threatening apostolic severity (2 Cor. 13:10) when he comes, if they don’t shape up.

He doesn’t want to leave that kind of sour taste in their mouths. Note well, reproof delivered with hard words may well have longer lasting effects when followed by strong assurances of love and affection.

Never lower the boom on anyone, especially in the body of Christ, without strong reminders of your affection and commitment to that someone.

I think Paul calls for the kiss of love in the end result of his letter so that they won’t peace-fake. I suppose you can come up to somebody you would really rather not have anything to do with and fake such a thing, but don’t call it holy. And it’s really hard to do!

To engage somebody on that level of intimacy where you will go cheek to cheek, normally means you’ve got no impediments blocking your relationship. Having to do this kind of thing in a fellowship of believers can help ensure that peacemaking, not peace-faking or peace-breaking, actually does go on.

In my next post I will head into v. 11 to help us embrace the practice of greeting one another with a holy kiss in ways culturally appropriate in our day and age.

ROBOJAW 3 REPORT

Update on My Most Recent Jaw Reconstruction Procedure

Dr. Marx

Last Thursday, August 10, I underwent the third in a series of surgeries to rebuild my right-side mandible.

Radiation treatment in 2005 eventually undermined the integrity of that bone. I suffered a pathological fracture as a result in late 2015.

Tongue cancer was painful. A broken jaw was excruciating. Worse than that, one can’t chew anything. Something had to be done.

Fortunately Dr. Robert Marks, an oral surgeon in Miami, knew just what to do for me. He is one of a kind. I’ve complained about having to travel 500 miles round trip each time I see him. But then I thank God he doesn’t operate out of Seattle.

Robojaw 1 took place in February 2016. They removed half the mandible and replaced it with a titanium plate.

After six months or so of healing, Robojaw 2 occurred the day before Thanksgiving that same year. They wired my jaw shut for three weeks to keep the bone graft to rebuild the mandible fixed in place until it was hard enough for me to safely chew again.

Another six months gone by brings things to the present with step three. Dr.  Marx removed four additional teeth in the lower front of my mouth. They would have eventually died from radiation treatment as well.

He also placed four implants below the jaw line. All this acts as a prelude to getting some teeth back in my mouth so I can chew food on that side, speak better, and prevent the upper right teeth from growing down and falling out since they have nothing to bite down on.

The surgery went well. It lasted about two hours. They were so pleased with the ease that they discharged me that very day. There was no need for an overnight stay for observation. I’m sure that made the insurance company happy.

Next Tuesday I will make yet another Miami trip for my two-week post-op check up. At that point I hope to confirm the timing for Robowjaw 4, six months from now and what it will involve.

By next February the implants should have become integrated with the bone. They will affix posts to the implants. These will set above the jaw line.

After three weeks of wearing some sort of mouth guard to keep them in place, the climax will happen. I will get eight teeth where now there are none.

I’ve already got a celebration plan mapped out. We’re sitting on a wedding gift card to Ruth’s Chris. I’ve never been. Might as well take those new teeth out for a ribeye spin and see just what they will be able to do.

Thanks for all for your prayers and support!

GUARDING PEACE WITH GIVING THANKS

Preserving Unity When Your Church Struggles

Every church experiences its ups and downs.

Ours has had its share. Most have involved me as lead pastor.

Between mega-loss and poor health, it seems I’ve spent more time out of the pulpit over the last three years than in it.

It’s awfully tough for a church to maintain momentum when the point man goes down.

Those things are largely behind me now. We’re working on rebuilding. But staying positive has its challenges.

And yet remaining thankful in all things matters so very much to a church’s peace. Paul exhorts in Phi. 2:14, Do all things without grumbling or disputing.

The church at Philippi suffered its share of disunity. Paul went so far as to call out publicly two women at odds with one another within the body (Phil. 4:2-3). Yikes, that must have hurt!

A spirit of discontent cripples the peace of any congregation.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer offered this counsel for navigating hard times in a needy congregation:

In the Christian community thankfulness is just what it is anywhere else in the Christian life. Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things. We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good. Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious. We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things? If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.

How’s your thanksgiving quotient in your church? Its peace depends in part on your faithfulness in the little things.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thess. 5:18).

TWICE FAVORED

Perspective with Yet Another Grief Anniversary

For three years now January has come and gone with the pain of loss. I’ve said it many times. No one should have to bury a child.

Now I add May to my least favorite months of the year list. Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of Nancy’s–the wife of my youth–going home to be with the Lord.

I was not sure how it would pass for me, especially since last March the Lord blessed me with Jan–the wife of my later years.

Me, Nan, & Jan

This picture was taken three years ago at a new people fellowship in our home. Who could have possibly known the providence of God that would unfold so soon after?

My emotions certainly came into play last night as the exact hour of Nan’s passing 365 days ago approached. Different folks reached out to me assuring me of their prayer support. Jan and I spent the evening together remembering and processing.

A verse I have returned to repeatedly through this journey is Prov. 18:22.

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.

What can I say? I’ve been favored by God in this regard twice in one lifetime.

Nancy was a gift from God to me. Jan is a gift from God to me. Both qualify as “excellent” (morally strong) women (Prov. 12:4; Prov. 31:10). Both were/are “prudent” (wise) women (Prov. 19:14). God alone gives a man such extraordinary favor.

Charles Bridges, in his commentary on Proverbs, said well what I testify to as a man favored in marriage not just to one, but two godly women in a lifetime:

The good thing is, when he honors her, . . . as the person, whom God saw to be the best and fittest for himself in the whole world, a comfort for life, a help for heaven. Thus she becomes the one object of his undivided heart. Mutual faith is plighted in the Lord. Such a communion spiritualizes his affections, and elevates him from earth to heaven.

And so with this first May anniversary behind me, I do that very good thing.

I honor both these women–gifts from Him lifting me more heavenward than I might ever have reached without them.

Thanks be to God for double favor.