BLESSING & THE GOOD LIFE

How Peacemaking Commitments Make for the Good Life

 

grace

In The Grace of Giving,  Stephen Olford tells of a Baptist pastor during the American Revolution, Peter Miller, who lived in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, and enjoyed the friendship of George Washington.

In Ephrata also lived Michael Wittman, an evil-minded sort who did all he could to oppose and humiliate the pastor. One day Michael Wittman was arrested for treason and sentenced to die.

Peter Miller traveled seventy miles on foot to Philadelphia to plead for the life of the traitor.

“No, Peter,” General Washington said. “I cannot grant you the life of your friend.”

“My friend!” exclaimed the old preacher. “He’s the bitterest enemy I have.”

“What?” cried Washington. “You’ve walked seventy miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in different light. I’ll grant your pardon.” And he did.

Peter Miller took Michael Wittman back home to Ephrata–no longer an enemy but a friend.

Peter Miller lived the good life as 1 Peter 3:8-12 prescribes it.

The text explains how to love life and see good days in spite of evil and reviling that at times can threaten us and our churches. It takes showing grace and refusing revenge and giving blessing.

Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless! Really? This is radical. It is counter intuitive. It’s the essence of unconditional, Christ-following/imitating love.

Can you hear the echoes of Jesus’ teaching from Luke 6:27-29?

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.

It resonates with Paul’s example in 1 Cor. 4:12–when reviled, we bless–and his teaching in 1 Thessalonians 5:15–See that no one repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

Perhaps Rom. 12:21 says it best: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

In the rest of this passage, Peter makes his case for why this kind of radical way of relating should govern our reactions even to our worst persecutors.

The first has to do with the nature of our calling. For to this you were called. In 1 Peter 2:20-21, Peter explained the first of two callings given to believers in the face of persecution in particular.

But here he gives an additional grace-shaped, love-never-fails calling when persecuted and reviled–-returning blessing for evil.

The second reason for committing to this kind of radical way of relating has to do with the nature of our reward. See the motivation at the end of v. 9?–-that you may obtain a blessing.

I think Peter means for us to look at this in terms of the present life and not the next. Consider how he defends his point in verses 10-12. He quotes Psalm 34:12-16, a psalm of David, when he came under attack by Abimelech and the Philistines.

Look at v. 10. For–-there’s his reason–He who would love life and see good days. That’s not talking about eternity; that’s talking about here and now.

This holds out a promise for a quality of life on earth, even for the believer enduring terrible persecution and conflict of all kinds.

As you head into 2018, do you need to adjust your expectations about the good life you desire?

Be sure to leave room for blessing an enemy.

SHOW & Tell

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Mega kudos to one of my alma maters. This fall, RTS Orlando sponsored something called “The Current Read.” They unpack their motivation this way:

We believe that the Christian community should be full of thoughtful readers. For this reason, we’ve created a book program called The Current Read that encourages not only our students, but others in the Orlando area, to read a book together, discussing the issues it raises and engaging the topic with the author at a “meet the author” event at the culmination of the program. Each fall, the library staff choose a thought-provoking book for the program and plan events to correspond with the reading.

When I received notice earlier this year, I jumped at the opportunity. I ordered the current offering and RSVPd for the author meet-and-greet. That event occurred this morning in downtown Orlando. I happened to engage Mr. Douthat while grabbing a bite in the breakfast line. I asked if I could share something personal with him. He obliged. I proceeded to tell him that I read his thought-provoking book during my recent vacation in Idaho. In so many words, I encouraged him with my testimony of just how much wind the read blew into my pastoral sails. His book, along with other means, convicted me more than ever to hunker down and plow on in my role as a pastor of a confessional church in suburban Orlando where much of what he describes does indeed ail the church. He admitted how humbled he felt at such a notion. His autograph signing of my personal copy of Bad Religion revealed as much. Nice. I might have to start reading the New York Times.

As I listened to his remarks during breakfast, one thing above all stood out. He spoke very strongly about the need for the church of Jesus Christ in this day and age to do more showing than telling in order to win a hearing about its message. The deficit brought about by the preponderance of heresies masquerading as the real deal has so disenfranchised the average American that now more than ever more than not we have to show folks the real thing before we get to tell them about the real thing.

bridge building

My take away is this: bridge building into the culture is a big deal. Doing things like free-parking outreaches and craft fairs and whatever else we can come up with to connect with those outside the church is something we must make a priority as we continue to strive to bless our city and preach the gospel.

It’s time for show and tell with a heavy emphasis on show so we get to tell when God gives us opportunity. Covenant member at OGC – will you pray for the craft fair? Will you serve at the craft fair? Will you visit the craft fair or if not, will you plan to participate in the next available opportunity you have for bridge-building? Titus 3:1 says to be ready for every good work. Are we?

Souper Bowl Sunday

No, that’s not a typo.

I meant the play on words with “souper.”

As you know this Sunday brings us to Super Bowl XLVI between the Patriots and Giants. Many plan to watch and enjoy with family and friends. The whole deal has turned into something of a national holiday.

For the last several years at OGC we have cooperated with the Christian Service Center of Orlando in conducting a canned food, non-perishable item food drive to help stock their pantry for feeding the hungry in Orange County.

We want to continue that tradition this year but with a twist.

Given the fact that our friends at the SDA have started this year operating a soup kitchen for feeding the hungry every Sunday afternoon, we have decided to donate this year’s offerings from our church to them. We want to say thank you for their hospitality in renting to us over the years. Furthermore we feel this represents a legitimate way for us to partner with them in mercy ministry in our very own neighborhood.

All that to say, as I announced yesterday, please bring to church with you this Sunday, February 5, your gift of such items for the cause. But here’s the thing! Please don’t bring any meat products. The Adventists, in line with their convictions, will only accept vegetarian, non-meat items. The list they gave us includes things like beans, rice, pastas, cereal, oil, pancake mix, etc. You get the idea.

We will designate a spot at the SDA this Sunday for you to put your items as you bring them with you. Just look for the sign.

And thanks for being a church that puts Titus 3:14 into practice!

Soup, Soil, & Super Sunday

If you think I’m referring to the big game tomorrow night, think again.

In my mind the significance of Super Bowl XLV pales in comparison to the day before us at Orlando Grace tomorrow.

In the first place, we get to practice Titus 3:14 – And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.

Hunger, particularly in these tough economic times, is always an urgent need. Every year on Super Bowl Sunday, the Christian Service Center of Orlando petitions the churches of this city to collect non-perishable food items to help restock their food pantry for feeding the hungry. Have you pulled your items from the shelf yet? The deacons will have a designated spot in the entry way tomorrow for you to leave your offering. Let us do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8) as Evan reminded us so well in last week’s message.

In the second place, we get to break ground for our facility (pray for good weather)! At 3 PM tomorrow afternoon we will participate in a service of worship on our property for giving the construction project of our church over to God. After the turning of the soil, those who call OGC their church home will bring soil from their own households to put in the hole symbolic of each one’s investment in this kingdom enterprise. Have you dug up your bit of ground yet? That’s ours in the baggie on the right.

As some of us put the finishing touches on prepping the property this morning for the ceremony, we mentioned numerous times our growing sense of excitement at the historic day and process before us. We will really get to do this, if God continues to give us favor!

Will you join with me this evening and throughout the day tomorrow that God will be glorified in all we say and do and that our joy will grow as we embrace the challenge He has put before us? Watch with me tomorrow and throughout the rest of the year as He will do immeasurably beyond all that we ask or think (Eph. 3:20-21)!

Why Believe in Someone So Many Despised As a Blasphemer (1)

Today’s message from John 10:32-41 is now available online. You can listen to it here.

Here’s how I summarized the theme and our necessary response:

Because Jesus successfully defended Himself from the charge of blaspheming God in His claims, we should believe in and follow Him as the Messiah, the Son of God. We face three lines of evidence in the way Jesus rebuts the Jews’ accusations — His works, God’s law, and John the Baptist’s testimony. How do you respond when brought face-to-face to the many good works from the Father Jesus’ did, especially His resurrection? Do you believe and worship or doubt? Worse than doubt, do you outright reject? John shows us the hard-hearted unbelief of the Jews again in hopes that if necessary, we might see ourselves in them and change our ways and believe in Him. Do it today.

Next week, Lord willing, we will finish the chapter with part two of this message.