A PEACEMAKING WIFE

How Nancy Excelled at Safeguarding Oneness in Our Marriage

Today would have marked our 42nd wedding anniversary. Ever since Nan went home to Jesus last May 31, I’ve wondered how this final major historical marker would unfold for me.

cananda-trip

As I paged through our wedding album this morning, tears fell again. I have so many great memories of life with the wife my youth. We enjoyed uncommon oneness by and large throughout the years.

In this personal post, I want to pay tribute to Nan the peacemaker. She took Eph. 4:1-3 seriously in the church and in our marriage. She eagerly preserved the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. She embraced the blessedness Jesus promises in Matt. 5:9.

I offer these ten practices for the benefit of any marriage desiring to know abiding peace in the home.

One, she loved Jesus  more than she loved me (Matt. 10:37-39). From the day of her conversion, Nan counted the costs of discipleship. Jesus was first in her affections. She knew it was not wise to pursue her satisfaction in me. God never made any spouse fit for that.

Two, she chose not to allow me to control her joy (1 Thess. 5:16-18). She had to learn this over time, but she got there. She came to distinguish the difference between what was about me and what was about her. And when it was about me–and it often was, she released and rested in Jesus.

Three, she perfected the art of asking me questions (Prov. 20:5). Nancy got me big time on this. She knew if she challenged me outright about something I thought, said, or did, I could so easily get defensive (again–that’s on me).

So she kept respect for me high while making her point by posing thoughtful questions to draw out my heart. I loved this about her! She engaged my heart; she didn’t stomp all over it.

Four, she refused worrisome nagging, choosing rather to wait on God for change in me (Prov. 21:19). It’s not that Nancy wouldn’t say hard things to me. I assure you, she knew how to do that well (see number six below). But once she made her case with me, she let it rest–asking the Lord to do in my heart what only He could do.

Five, she didn’t peacebreak (Prov. 15:18). Some will question my memory on this. It is true just the same. Nan lost her cool with me only one time in all our years together. Frankly, I deserved it. Outbursts of anger crush oneness; we simply refused to go there by God’s grace.

Six, she didn’t peacefake (Eph. 4:25-27). Sorry to say, I specialized in stuffing my anger and punishing Nan with the cold shoulder treatment. I got better over time, but Nan never struggled with fear of conflict issues like I did. She consistently told it like it was in love.

Seven, she overlooked my sin–a lot (Prov. 19:11). Nan outright forgave me for my offenses over and over again without saying a word. SHE WAS NOT EASILY OFFENDED. This matters so much to marital oneness.

Eight, she consistently forgave me for my sins (Eph. 4:32). Nancy lived out the gospel of grace by showing her chief-of-sinners husband forgiving grace. She practiced the four promises of forgiveness–especially never using my past as a weapon against me. Good grief, I was a fortunate man! If you only knew.

Nine, she embraced assisted peacemaking with me when necessary (Phil. 4:2-3). We visited a fair number of Christian counselors over the years. We never regretted the investment. If we got stuck with maintaining oneness, we got help restoring oneness.

Ten, she never wavered on her covenant commitments (Matt. 5:37). On December 21, 1974 Nancy Masologites spoke vows to me, Curtis Heffelfinger, promising to love and to cherish, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, until death did us part.

Death did us part this year, but Nancy’s legacy lives on in so many ways–including in my aim to be a better peacemaking man and pastor for the rest of my days.

Thanks, babe, you were the best.

BARS, CHAINS, & BIRTHDAYS

More Reflections Along the Jaw Rebuilding Road

Last Tuesday took me to yet another doctor appointment in Miami. Never have I looked forward to the 500 mile, day-long marathon trip as I did for this particular visit.

Time to remove the Erector Set pile of metal bars and chains holding my reconstructed jaw shut for the last 21 days.

crocodiles_resting_together

What a war! Two surgical residents. Pliers. Wire cutters. Suction. It started easy enough. But before long the yanking, twisting, pulling, and tugging increased. I stiffened in the chair like a 2×6 piece of red fir. My kingdom for some nitrous oxide–PLEASE!

Once the nurse turned the gas on high I settled in for the duration. Bloodied and sore after it all, the word “Armageddon” kept running through my head for some reason.

It felt SO GOOD to open my mouth again. No more practicing the ventriloquist act for this preacher. Never I have enjoyed so much like I did that night flossing and brushing both sides of my teeth!

Rarely have I anticipated solid food again with more delight. The first bite of fish (soft and sauce remain my culinary mandates for the duration) melted in my mouth. I moaned at the savory taste with pleasure. But then came a moan of a different kind.

Chewing brought pain–again. There simply was no opening my jaw wide enough to bite down on the food. Both sockets hurt with each movement. I could hardly manipulate the food with my tongue so as to position it where teeth remain for mastication.

Sigh. This will take longer than I think. Double sigh.

But–my chains are gone! I’ve been set free! Slowly my range of motion improves. Each day it hurts a bit less to get solid food down. RoboJaw 2 gets further in the rear view mirror with each passing day. I am so thankful.

The next day, Wednesday, I turned 44, spiritually speaking. I celebrated yet another spiritual birthday. For some reason I happen to be one of those Christians who knows just when the Spirit of God blew with power resulting in his spiritual birth (John 3:1-8).

I don’t know that it matters all that much or not whether one knows the time and date specifics of his regeneration–although a special friend of mine admitted she envies that for me.

What matters a great deal more is the assurance that one has been born again. You know the Lord has changed your heart of stone into a heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:26). You enjoy the  assurance of hope in eternal life (1 John 5:11-13).

You fear no condemnation because Jesus’ propitiating sacrifice has satisfied the wrath of God most holy justly upon you for your sin (Rom. 3:21-26; 5:1; 8:1). Your sins are forgiven. Those chains are gone. You’ve been set free and are free indeed (John 8:31-32)!

You trust that the blood of Jesus covers all your sins. J. C. Ryle expressed the inexpressible joy of this particular assurance so well:

This wondrous blood of Christ, applied to your conscience, can cleanse you from all sin. It matters nothing what your sins may have been, “Though they be as scarlet they may be made like snow. Though they be red like crimson they can be made like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18.) From sins of youth and sins of age, from sins of ignorance and sins of knowledge—from sins of open profligacy and sins of secret vice—from sins against law and sins against Gospel—from sins of head, and heart, and tongue, and thought, and imagination—from sins against each and all of the ten commandments—from all these the blood of Christ can set us free. To this end was it appointed; for this cause was it shed; for this purpose it is still a fountain open to all mankind. That thing which you cannot do for yourself can be done in a moment by this precious fountain. YOU CAN HAVE ALL YOUR SINS CLEANSED AWAY.

Have you been born again?

SAVORING THE BETTER FOOD

When Fighting To Consume Enough Calories Teaches a Spiritual Lesson

Day 20. Operation RoboJaw 2 is nearly three weeks in my rear view mirror. Lord willing, tomorrow in Miami, the wires come off this jaw!

Muir Woods, California, USA

The Lord has taught me so many things through this latest trial. One particularly important lesson came soon after surgery. I visited my PCP for a post-op follow up. He took one look at my weight and read me the riot act. “You’ve lost nine pounds in a week. You have to eat more!”

Easy for him to say. But I did and have. The scale stabilized right around 170 lbs. I look forward to getting back on the eat-anything-you-want diet until I can pack on another ten or so pounds.

Clearly taking in enough nutrients and calories matters greatly to one’s physical health. The wake up call in the doc’s office that day got me to thinking about the principle on a spiritual level.

The Scriptures refer to God’s word as our necessary spiritual food of a superior kind. Job put it this way: I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread (23:12). Jesus, after 40 days of fasting, said this: Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4).

The Psalmist describes the truly happy man with a vivid metaphor in Psalm 1:1-3.

Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

Are you taking in enough spiritual nutrition? How’s your daily feeding on God’s word? Does 1 Peter 2:2-3 describe your experience–Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

2017 is fast upon us. Might this be the time you can fortify your spiritual health habits with a regular diet of  feasting on God’s word? Here are some nutritional plan suggestions to help.

One, read five chapters of the Psalms and one of Proverbs a day. For extra strength read a chapter in both the Old and New Testaments as well.

Two, purchase a subscription to Table Talk Magazine. In addition to the excellent articles and devotions in each publication, they include a reading plan for working your way through the Bible in a year. I have used this resource for years. It’s a treasure!

Three, get a one year plan for reading through the Bible like you can find here. Don’t get discouraged if you miss a day. Most of us do. Get started again as soon as you can.

But don’t go days without feasting. You’ll lose too much weight!

Rather read and meditate daily on God’s word and grow into a flourishing fruit-yielding tree!

SUPERIOR SATISFYING TASTE

Experiencing a Taste Better Than 10,000 Kinds of Food

Yesterday in Miami Dr. Marx examined the scan of my jaw now two weeks post Operation Robojaw Two. “Everything looks great,” he pronounced. And then, turning back to look me in the eye, added, “Only one more week to go.”

wires

My heart sank. I had nursed a slim home he might release the Miami Vice Grip inside my mouth a week early. Not a chance. “The bone graft is about the consistency of cardboard,” he explained. “Still needs to harden some.” Doc knows best. I kept my mouth shut. What else could I do anyway?

Honestly, the jaw wired shut thing has proven less problematic than I imagined. I could do without the sharp edges digging into my cheeks, but I quickly discovered orthodontic wax to help on that score.

The biggest deprivation? Food and its taste, of course. I posted about this from the get go. I have another week to drill down deeper on the spiritual satisfaction level through this latest episode of cancer and its dramatic impact in my life.

It’s not that I don’t get to taste anything. The choices on a liquid diet, however, are quite limited. I suspect I won’t make another smoothie for months once I can chew again.

I was reminded recently with Gordon Meier’s help, in his book Taste: My New Life Without Food, how the Bible uses the concept of taste with respect to our spiritual lives. Psalm 34:8 provides a perfect example: Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

The Hebrew word translated “taste” occurs eleven times in the Old Testament. In all but two instances it refers to literal tasting of food and drink. But two times it carries this figurative sense of experiencing something to discern its pleasantness.

Proverbs 31:18–referring to the virtuous wife–helps get the meaning of the poet in Psalm 34:8. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night (emphasis mine).

The Psalmist invites us–actually commands us–to sample the Lord, like a sommelier sips a fine wine, to discern/perceive His surpassing excellence to our soul’s palate. Those who do, he declares, find great blessing having taken refuge in Him.

So I have another week to go without the heavenly taste of stuffed omelets, fried potatoes, grilled salmon, chocolate chip cookies, just to name a few. How does a certified foodie like me do that? He has to focus daily, by God’s grace, on the superior satisfaction of Jesus and His ultimate goodness.

Have you responded to the invitation to taste and see that the Lord is good? Why not see for yourself? Sample some of His fare from the Bible where the words are counted sweeter than honey to the mouth (Psalm 119:103). The Psalms make a great place to start tasting!

Are you experiencing some deprivation of God’s good gifts leaving you hungry and empty? Choose moving toward Him for your soul’s satisfaction for the taste so superior in every way. You’ll be blessed in the refuge He provides.

Taste and see that God is not only good; He is enough.

 

 

THE TRIPLE FENCE

An Extraordinary Benefit To Having My Jaw Wired Shut

One week down. Two to go. Robojaw 2 left me Meatless in Miami–a major upside to the whole jaw-wired-shut deal recorded in that post. Today another half-glass-full look at things from Revheff Smoothie Town.

Zipped mouth

It came to me during my morning reading in the Scriptures. Psalm 141:3 stopped me cold:

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!

King David prays. His sense of urgency in approaching I AM is palpable in the first two verses. Need drives him. Concern grips him. Several items make up his list of petitions.

Note the starting place. Of all the things I’ve ever prayed for to get help, I don’t think this particular issue ever made priority one: post a sentry over my speech. The Hebrew word for “guard” is closely related to the cognate “eyelid.”

David asks the Lord to keep a close eye on the gate separating his tongue from communication with others. Essentially he asks God to exercise great care over that strategic location.

Puritan Thomas Watson made this observation about how God has provided for this very protection by the wonders of creation:

God has given us two ears, but one tongue, to show that we should be swift to hear, but slow to speak. God has set a double fence before the tongue, the teeth and the lips, to teach us to be wary that we offend not with our tongue.

A double fence. What a word picture! For me He has ordained an additional barrier–a wired shut jaw. Amazing the economy of words one settles for when speaking so as to be understood requires so much effort at articulation.

The triple fencing of my tongue has led to three insights as to why we would all do well to take our cue from David and regularly pray the same prayer.

One, no one can tame the tongue in his/her own strength. James 5:8 settles this issue: But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. Think of your tongue as a venomous viper ready to strike at the slightest provocation. Only one handler can tame it, but we must ask for His help.

Two, prayer on this score can spare us a world of difficulty. Prov. 21:23 advises: Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. I shudder to think how often ill advised words have gotten me into hot water. I posted about this quite recently here. James gets even more vivid with metaphors on this score in James 3:5-6.

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.

That which has the power of life and death at its command needs all the fencing it can get (Prov. 18:21).

Three, fenced tongues matter greatly to a church’s peace. Among the things God hates we find these in Prov. 6:19: a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. Few things disrupt unity in God’s church like runaway tongues.

May we follow the example of the One who when reviled opened not His mouth (Isa. 53:7).

That starts by making the tongue a high priority matter in our praying.

MEATLESS IN MIAMI

When Life Is More Than Food

I’ve seen this movie before. The sequel, like most, is worse than the original–at least with respect to the diet. Robojaw 2 leaves me not just meatless for three weeks, but “solidless” in every other way too.

food-by-syringe

The next twenty-one days for this titanium man mean ingesting only liquids through a syringe. My kingdom for dinner at Emeril’s.

I get discharged today. Things went very well thanks to abundant prayers and Class A cutters and their staff. I’m grateful–really I am. But why back in prolonged involuntary fasting mode–AGAIN?

They kept me alive back in ’05 for four months on IV TPN 12 hour-per day nutrition. Robojaw 1 left me unable to chew solids for an eternity, but at least I could blend meats and the like with lots of sauce in the Vitamix. But this time around enter a new wrinkle–chains on the jaw.

Chewing is my worst enemy toward jaw-rebuild success. That puppy has to stay immobilized. I don’t mind telling you–it’s a really strange feeling to have your mouth clamped shut. Makes spitting a whole new adventure, I assure you.

The Lord gave me some perspective on the matter this morning. I started reading a book called Taste:My New Life Without Food. A couple in my church gifted it to me just before I left for the latest Miami procedure.

Author Gordon Meier, a pastor like me, hasn’t eaten ANYTHING since 2012–thanks to some rare, bizarre intestinal disease I won’t bother to spell out.

He drew me in immediately with his story. I also appreciated his handling of God’s word.

Commenting on Jesus’ teaching in Matt. 6:25-33 about how life is more than food–and a whole lot of other things–he writes:

And whenever I struggle, wanting to eat something so badly, I am rebuked and reminded that my spiritual roots need to go deeper into him, and I am learning to allow Jesus to be my bread that satisfies. All other food only appeals to my surface appetites. My appetites need to be transferred to and focused on that which will last. . . . Physical food simply doesn’t last. But Jesus lasts. He is the essence of what ultimately satisfies (30).

Oh yeah. That’s why I’m meatless in Miami again.

Let me better feast the feast that ultimately satisfies.

I’ll drink to that.

 

OPERATION ROBOJAW TWO

Ways To Pray for My Latest Jaw Journey

In about an hour from writing this post, I head for Miami. Tomorrow morning the oral surgical team at Jackson South will open me up for measures necessitated from massive radiation treatment for head and neck cancer back in 2005. Nice way to spend a Thanksgiving, eh?

Jaw dental x-ray scan front view

I must keep this brief as time escapes me. In most ways my prayer requests remain much the same as they were for Robojaw One. You can watch that video post here.

However, a few specifics come with this second major step in the four-part journey to return some form of normalcy to my mangled mandible.

Before listing those, here is a brief synopsis of the strategy for step two. The procedure should last about six hours. It is scheduled for 8 AM on 11/23. It involves taking bone marrow and stem cells from my hips, mixing that with a protein I can’t pronounce, along with cadaver bone from the hospital reserve (nice huh?).

They mix that into a paste and rebuild what they call the “vestibule.” I asked the doc if he could install a narthex while he was in there, but I don’t know that he got my attempt at church humor.

Now for the fun part. They wire my jaw shut for three weeks. Imagine the irony. A preacher with his jaw wired shut. One of my armor bearing brothers at OGC has taken to calling it, Operation Miami Vice-Grip. Nice.

So, here’s how you can pray and I am SO thankful that you might:

  1. That I adjust quickly to the wiring of the jaw and am able to take in adequate nutrition so my weight does not drop too far.
  2. That I recover sufficiently that while I’m out on this medical leave I might make major headway on writing my book.
  3. That I might be able to return to the pulpit on Jan. 1. I really, really, really want to preach the New Year’s message for my church’s joy and encouragement, if the Lord wills.

Again, thanks a ton. Hope to report on another blog post soon from the other side of Robojaw Two!

POLITICS & CHURCH PEACE

So many things threaten the peace and purity of God’s church. Differing opinions about politics can divide God’s people in challenging ways. I offered the following to my church to help ground us in a kingdom view for guarding our oneness.

I awoke Wednesday morning to learn that Donald Trump tweeted a revised bio on his feed: president elect of the United States.

Illustration of presidential campaign buttons

Honestly, as with the pre-election realities―unlike anything I can recall in my lifetime―I find myself on this side of Election Day scratching my pastoral head as to what to make of our state of the union.

If ever I would categorize something as a Psalm 131:2 “too-high-for-me/above-my-pay-grade” scenario, the political drama unfolding before our eyes in 2016 qualifies as much as any of the other mysterious providences to enter my life this year.

While wrestling frequently over where to cast my vote, I have resisted occupying myself with the outcome in a hand-wringing, anxiety-ridden, prideful occupying of myself with what I can’t control. God has helped me calm my soul with weaned-child perspective born of His persistent work in my sometimes frantic fretting over baffling providences.

No doubt a wide range of emotions exists within our body this week, regardless of individual political preferences. In this article, I want to point us to David’s exhortation in Psalm 131:3 to hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. Consider these truths from God’s word to garrison that hope in your heart.

One, God is sovereign over all things. Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases (Psalm 115:3). Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning  and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,  and I will accomplish all my purpose’ (Isaiah 46:9-10).

Among all the things that moved and shifted overnight last Tuesday, Jesus didn’t. He remains enthroned in the heavens at the Father’s right hand until He brings all His enemies under His feet (1 Cor. 15:25). He reigns!

Two, God’s sovereignty prevails in specific over rulers, kings, prime ministers and presidents alike. For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another (Psalm 75:6-7).

Regardless for whom you voted—and I hope you did exercise your US citizen stewardship responsibility to do so—God has judged. He put down Secretary Clinton and lifted up Mr. Trump. Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it (Amos 3:6)?

Please don’t misread me. I’m not implying I consider the president elect a disaster. Nor do I necessarily regard him a monumental blessing. My political sentiments as a citizen of our country are my personal business.

What I’m simply saying by citing that verse is this: even if Donald Trump proves to be the worst thing to ever happen to our country, the best thing, or likely somewhere in between, God will have done it. Furthermore, I want to caution us to exercise care in the way we judge. J. D. Greear said this very well in his post-election article:

I’d encourage us to be cautious about declaring definitively God’s intentions in this election. I’ve already seen social media filling up with some declaring Trump as “God’s answer to the prayers of his people,” and others declaring him to be the “judgment of God on America.” A better posture is to encourage Trump where he works for justice and pursues righteousness, and speak against him where he promotes injustice. It is almost never wise to appoint yourself God’s spokesman about contemporary events. (That has led to several devastating chapters in history!) Based on what you see in Scripture, stand with righteousness and against injustice wherever you see it (emphasis mine).

As I think about preaching 1 Peter this Sunday and the plight of the persecuted church, I find myself grateful that the beast Nero doesn’t rule over us. We could be worse off—far worse. As Scripture urges honoring even tyrants like Rome’s emperor (1 Pet. 2:17) and prayer for all in authority over us (1 Tim. 2:1-2), let us make that our default response to our country’s recent turn of events.

Mr. Trump’s heart, as with President Obama and every other White House occupant, is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will (Prov. 21:1). The Lord’s eyes keep watch on the nations (Psalm 66:7). The USA is no exception. God’s got this deal!

Three, our citizenship in heaven (Phil. 3:20) supersedes all allegiances on earth, including our beloved country. I’m grateful to possess a US passport; I’m infinitely more excited that my name is written in the book of life (Luke 10:20). Every US citizen who follows Jesus is longing for a better country, a heavenly one―or should be (Heb. 11:16).

Are you crushed by Tuesday’s outcome? Are you unsure what to think? Has it left you with a sense of angst to some degree? Let the longings stirred up as a result set your mind and heart toward your heavenly kingdom. Redouble your energies for being on mission for Jesus—knowing Him to make Him known.

Jesus never said, “I will build the USA and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” He never said that about Israel as well, nor any other geopolitical entity. No, He raised that banner over His church and her alone (Matt. 16:18). The church of Jesus Christ alone ultimately triumphs through election cycles, centuries, and millennia.

Good news, church. We win! He is coming again with myriads of angels to make all things right (1 Thess. 4:16). He will judge the living and the dead (2 Tim. 4:1). The New Heavens and New Earth remain our treasured inheritance kept for us by God’s power (1 Pet. 1:5). So hope in the Lord, church of the redeemed, from this time forth and forever.

After a friend of mine shared his sentiments about the outcome of this election, he proceeded to say this to me: before the day is out I plan to read through the book of Daniel in one sitting. Not a bad place to ground oneself in these too great and marvelous times in which we live.

GRIEVING SIN

Mending Fences When You Break Peace with Others

Recently I found myself back in the house of mourning. Gratefully it had nothing to do with death of a loved one. But the intensity of grief I felt seemed eerily reminiscent of the past three years.

Farmer binding the wire in pasture

What happened? I wounded a friend. A joke I played backfired–miserably. I sensed it minutes after I did it. I tried to reverse course. Too late. Damage already done. The brother I harmed, a committed peacemaker, spoke plainly in truth and love just how deep the hurt went.

I hate my sin–especially when it affects others. The Lord immediately impressed upon me the weight of my guilt.

Any follower of Jesus, eager to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3) with others, identifies with the sense of loss which accompanies breaking fellowship this way. What to do?

Three steps at least are warranted.

One, repent quickly.

The apostle Paul commended one church this way: For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment (2 Cor. 7:11).

Repentance involves a changing of one’s mind which turns away from wrong in favor of aligning with God’s will on a matter. It is always better to do that sooner rather than later to avoid hardness of heart.

Two, confess robustly.

Beware the temptation to apologize inadequately just to get out of the doghouse with someone as quickly as possible. Use Peacemaker Ministries 7 A’s of Confession as a helpful template for full-orbed confession. These will keep you from birthing what a friend of mine calls an “abortive confession.”

  1. Address everyone involved (All those whom you affected)
  2. Avoid if, but, and maybe (Do not try to excuse your wrongs)
  3. Admit specifically (Both attitudes and actions)
  4. Acknowledge the hurt (Express sorrow for hurting someone)
  5. Accept the consequences (Such as making restitution)
  6. Alter your behavior (Change your attitudes and actions)
  7. Ask for forgiveness

Each of these matters in robust confession but numbers three and four make a world of difference in communicating godly grief over sin which breaks relationships. With my friend I said something like this: I violated the law of love in 1 Cor. 13:4-7. I was unkind and I was rude.

I quickly gathered how much hurt I had caused by joking around. I had to own insensitivity that touched a terribly important aspect of his personal peace.

Third, believe boldly.

Believe what? The gospel of grace and its promise of forgiveness through the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Don’t do what I tend to do–wallow in a form of grief which amounts to self-imposed shame. In other words avoid the temptation to beat yourself up.

Cling tightly to the words of Heb. 4:16. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

And get back to loving your friend the way you used to and even better.

GOD OF THE NEW THING

The Best News I’ve Had in a Long Time

A dear friend recently encouraged me with these words from the sacred text:

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isa. 43:19).

The purpose of this post is to report a new thing, a good thing, I perceive the Lord doing in my life.

Development business concept

Recently I’ve begun to get to know personally a godly woman in my church.

Jan Spence has been a covenant member at Orlando Grace for a couple of years now. I approached her a month ago with the notion of entertaining something more than a shepherd/sheep relationship between us. Would she even consider praying about it?, I asked–half expecting to get shot down in a ball of flames.

Though my initiative shocked her somewhat, she chose not to run for her life. She prayed. Then she hit me with some forthright, understandably necessary questions. I answered each honestly before the Lord. And then she said, “Yes, I’m willing.”

Well, what in the world to do now? Needless to say, I’ve not swum in these for waters for decades. And Jan has been quite content in her singleness for the last twelve years. We decided to talk on the phone initially keeping things between the two of us.

The more questions we asked of each other and responses we shared, the more our mutual attraction began growing. We quickly discerned the wisdom of confiding in the elders of our church for their protection and counsel. Much guidance has come through them. We welcome their ongoing accountability.

Our biggest puzzle has been how to go public with the news. Both of us want to love our church and friends well. My role as a pastor requires extra care here in guarding the welfare of my church to the degree that I can. Jan wants that very much as well. We have no peace about people learning this piecemeal through here-and-there conversations.

So, the more we prayed and counseled, the more we settled on my doing what I always do. Blog. I’ve sought to cultivate my author’s voice through this medium for years now. It has served me well both in keeping folks up to speed with my health issues and my family losses.

We simply cannot think of a better way to inform as many folks at the same time as possible. Furthermore this creates a written account of things so that those who hear secondhand have a resource to access for the firsthand version.

Jan wisely asked me about my grief process in mourning Nancy. I don’t know that the sense of loss attached to losing someone so special in your life ever completely ends. Honestly, I have wondered myself at times about the place of contentment I found on the other side of my bereavement leave.

I attribute that to God’s grace, enormous support, confidence of Nan’s eternal destiny, focusing on the great marriage we had—almost 42 years I never deserved—and, finally, the anticipatory grief I experienced for fifteen months, which I spoke about in my last post.

But there comes a time for moving on when spiritual, emotional, and mental health permit. Those who know me best validate that God has done a work in helping me in this regard.

The affirmation Jan and I have received from our spiritual leadership, closest confidants, and our extended families has given us great encouragement to continue down the road of exploring what God has for us.

With all the heartache and suffering of late, I welcome this providence as God’s gift and could not be happier for it. Perhaps Psalm 30:11-12 best summarizes my sentiments:

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

In case anyone at OGC is wondering . . . I have asked Jan if she will sit with me on Sundays at church. Though the challenge of assuming a seat once occupied by Nancy is not lost on her, she has agreed to that as well.

Please pray for us to abide in the will of God at every turn as we wait on Him and continue to get to know one another. Thank you.