Superficial Healing

“They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).

Brokenness is real. We are broken because of sin. Our brokenness is seen in the violence and hatred around us, as evidenced once again sadly in Nice, France yesterday. The brokenness is evident in strained marriages, troubled youth, and very distracted Christians. When we are standing in the wake of the consequences of our sins or of the sins of others, we need healing. However, we must be cautious of seeking superficial healing as spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah.

Superficial Healing

Let’s take a bite out of Jeremiah 6 today and reflect on why God said the people were only healed superficially.

Vs. 13 – Everyone is greedy, and from the prophet even to the priest everyone deals falsely.

From the king to the servant, and from the prophets to the priests, all were greedy. The priests and prophets dealt falsely. They told the people what they wanted to hear, and the people “loved to have it so” (Jer. 5:31). They told the people what was politically correct and easy to the ear. The priests and prophets lined their pockets by offering a feel-good message of “peace, peace.” The problem is, first of all, that message was not from God, and secondly, there was no lasting peace in that message.

In contrast, Jeremiah was delivering a message of doom and destruction. He called them to “amend their ways and their deeds” (Jeremiah 7:3,5). Real healing, whether for the individual, for the marriage, for the church, or for the nation, requires us to look honestly at the truth, no matter how painful it may be. We have to call out evil, hatred and violence for what it is. Truth demands real change and repentance. The truth calls us out for who we really are and what we have to do to change. Do we want the preacher really to tell it like it is? Do we really want the shepherds of the church to tell us what we need to hear? Do we want superficial answers, or do we want truth? We demand truth from our physicians and mechanics, don’t we? How about God?

Vs. 15 – Were they ashamed? They did not know how to blush.

Real healing happens when we are truly ashamed for our behavior and our words. Not just sorry that someone caught us. Not just sorry that we can’t continue our double life. The people of Jeremiah’s day had become so calloused that their over-the-top wickedness was considered mainstream. Because they were so desensitized, the word of God did not penetrate their hearts. If you don’t see a problem with immoral behavior, how can you feel bad for participating in it?

Vs. 16 – Ask for the ancient paths…but they would not walk in them.

God’s paths are old. God’s truth is ancient, but His truth is timeless. The words of Moses were around 800 years old by the time of Jeremiah. They were old and ancient, but they were from God and still were relevant. Superficial healing comes when we pacify ourselves with modern philosophy, pop culture, and any “new” idea that may come our way. Real healing begins when we ask for the ancient, old Jerusalem gospel.

Vs. 17 – I set watchmen over you…but you would not listen.

Just as there were false prophets, there were also true prophets like Jeremiah. The people of Judah had a choice as to which group would be their advisors. The same choice exists for us today, men. God will allow us to choose superficial healing promoted by those seeking their own glory. He will also put people in our life who can help us get to true rest and healing. They may say things that hurt, but in the end we will be saved. It’s our choice.

Better Than Sacrifice

Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams (1 Samuel 15:22).

God calls us to worship Him, no doubt. But God also said over and over in Scripture that He desires some things more than our worship. Provided below is a listing of many passages on this principle for your study and reflection.

Better Than Sacrifice – Old Testament

Psalm 50 – It would be helpful to read this whole Psalm! “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; and to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God” (vs 23). God wants us to be thankful and obedient when we worship.

Psalm 51:16-17 – The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. God wants our hearts to be broken before Him.

Proverbs 21:3 – To do righteousness and justice is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice (See also Proverbs 15:8; 21:27; 28:9)

Ecclesiastes 5:1-5- Draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools. Keep your word when you promise Him something.

Isaiah 1:11-17 – God “hated” and “despised” their sacrifices because of their wicked lives. He told them to cease to do evil, and learn to do good. They needed to repent and wash themselves, and then worship Him.

Jeremiah 6:20; 7:9-11,22-24 – God asked for the purpose of their worship. God’s house had become a den of thieves. Jesus quoted this passage in Matthew 21:13. See also Jeremiah 11:15.

Hosea 6:6 – I desire mercy and not sacrifice. Jesus twice quoted this passage (Matthew 9:13; 12:7).

Amos 5:21-24 – Let justice roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream. Just as in Isaiah, God hated their worship and wanted them to stop it. He wanted to see justice and righteousness in their lives first.

Micah 6:6-8 – We may want to offer the Lord “thousands of rams” and “ten thousand rivers of oil.” We might even want to offer our own child to Him. But what does the Lord require of us but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God?

Zechariah 7:5 – Did you really fast for Me, for Me?

Malachi – Just read the book of Malachi, and you will see several examples of people worshipping God, but with corrupt motives and impure lives. God deserves and expects better than that.

Better Than Sacrifice – New Testament

Matthew 5:23-24 – First be reconciled to your brother, then offer your gift to God. Our relationships with others matter! How effective is our worship when we are at odds with the brother in the next pew?

Matthew 6 – When we fast, pray and give alms, Jesus wants a heart of humility. Don’t put on a concert for others to see your righteousness.

Matthew 15:7-9 & John 4:23-24 – God wants our obedience, that we worship Him in truth. He also wants our hearts, that we worship Him in spirit.

Matthew 23:23 – According to Jesus, there are weightier matters of the law like justice, mercy and faith.

Mark 12:32-34 – Loving God with all your heart, and loving your neighbor as yourself is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.

Romans 12:1-2 – We are to be a living sacrifice.

1 Corinthians 11:28 – But a man must examine himself…then partake of the Lord’s Supper.

Hebrews 13:15-16 – Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

Did you see a consistent pattern in all of those passages? Men, as we consider our worship to God, we must also reflect upon our heart, our character, our behavior and how we treat others.

Two Unhealthy Responses to Anger

Now when King David heard of all these matters, he was very angry. But Absalom did not speak to Amnon either good or bad; for Absalom hated Amnon because he had violated (raped) his sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:21-22).

Amnon, a son of King David, had just raped his half-sister, Tamar. This act was vile and premeditated, and Amnon (even if he was royalty) should have been punished.

Two men close to this situation, however, had two unhealthy responses to anger. Their anger was clearly justified, but how each of these two men dealt with it was destructive. I believe we can gain some valuable insight here as men of Christ.

Two Unhealthy Responses to Anger
  • David’s inaction. King David was “very angry” as you see in the above passage. Very angry…but did absolutely nothing. Maybe it was because he was guilty of adultery and murder himself. Maybe it was because Amnon was his firstborn son. Regardless, he did nothing. It is my belief, that David’s inaction led to Absalom’s plan to murder Amnon.
  • Absalom plotted his revenge. This was his sister. They had David as a father and they had the same mother.  He said nothing good or bad to Amnon. His hatred led to silent scheming, waiting for the right moment to strike back. Absalom successfully conspired with others to murder Amnon. He had a right to be angry, but he took it way too far.

Both men were right to be angry. How could you not be angry when someone is raped? There are many times when we have a right to be angry, but we err in how to deal with what caused the anger.

As men in congregations, we will be faced with situations that create anger. It happened to Jesus (Mark 3:5). But what do you do when you are angry? Do you push it aside or suppress it? Do you ignore the problem, thinking it will go away? Do you fail to approach the brother or sister that is causing the problem because of fear or insecurity? Do you sulk and mope around giving people at church the “silent treatment”? Or are you like Absalom, figuring out clever ways to strike back and make others pay for their wrongdoings?

In David and Absalom we observe two unhealthy responses to anger, and we can learn from their mistakes. May we meditate on healthy, God-approved ways to deal with our anger.

Be angry, and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity (Ephesians 4:26-27).

Part 2 – Local Church, Why Bother?

In last Friday’s MDB, we reflected on why we should be a part of a local congregation. We need each other, just as body parts need each other and family members need each other.

As men especially, God has called us to be spiritual leaders, both in the home and in the church. Many times I have seen wives in churches alone or with their kids. Daddy didn’t come. I am grateful that many men reading this take seriously their G0d-appointed role to be an active part of a church.

There are many things done as a congregation, not as individuals.
  • Our collective worship: to sing, teach and pray together (Hebrews 10:24-25; 1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 5:19).
  • We take the Lord’s Supper together (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinhians 11:17-34).
  • We gather up a collection to support preaching and benevolence (1 Corinthians 16:1-3; 1 Timothy 5:1-16).
  • We are to hold each other accountable to God’s standards (1 Corinthians 5; 2 Thessalonians 3; Matthew 18:15-17). Church discipline by its very existence necessitates an identifiable body of believers. Study the phrase “among you” in the New Testament. How do you define “among you” without having an idea of who belongs and who does not in a local church? Just like in a family, a team, an army, a nation, or a company, we have to hold each other accountable. That, however, requires us to be committed to each other, vulnerable and transparent.
  • We provide comfort for each other as we share our sufferings with each other and pray with and for each other (2 Corinthians 1:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11; Hebrews 12:12).
We need each other!

Another concept that helps us to understand our individual part of a collective whole is that we are “living stones” that are being “built up into a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5). Stones are joined together with mortar. Individual stones separated to themselves cannot form a wall or a house.

Some will balk at the term “church membership” because it is not used in the New Testament. True, but the word “members” is used, but not in the “club” sense of the word. We are members in the “body” sense of the word (Ephesians 5:30; 1 Corinthians 12). We are members in the “household” sense of the word (Ephesians 2:19). We are “members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25).

The value of knowing each other:

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

Finally, what do I do with the unruly? Warn them. What do I do with the fainthearted? Comfort them. What do I do with the weak? Uphold them. How on earth can I know whether you are fainthearted, weak or unruly unless I am committed to you and spend a great deal of time with you? This requires, therefore, that we make ourselves accountable and vulnerable to each other. As a result, when I am weak you can know I am not being unruly, and what I need is a helping hand not a warning. You can also know when I am being unruly, and what I need is a warning not comfort.

“Love the brotherhood” (1 Peter 2:17).

Local Church – Why Bother?

A local church – why bother? Many folks I’ve talked to over the years have argued that being part of a local congregation doesn’t matter. “I can be a Christian without being part of a church.” “I need Jesus, but I don’t need the church.”

If you are one who feels that way, I would like to challenge you from God’s word to think differently. I also hope that you will see what you are missing by not being part of a local congregation.

An individual is not the church.

I have heard people say many times, “I am the church.” Not true. The more accurate way to think of church is “assembly” or “congregation.” In the New Testament, the word “church” can refer to the body of Christ – all Christians everywhere (Ephesians 1:22-23). Church is also used to describe local bodies of believers who join together to do God’s work. For example, “the church of God which is at Corinth…” (1 Corinthians 1:2).

Please study the terms used to describe the church:
  • A body. An eye is not the body, but it must operate in conjunction with the whole body. The apostle Paul used this word picture to teach the church in Corinth about the value of each individual as part of the body (1 Corinthians 12).
  • A kingdom. One citizen is not the kingdom (Colossians 1:13).
  • A household/family. We are “members of the household of God,” and a family named after the Father (Ephesians 2:19; 3:14-15). One person is not a family. Imagine one of my children saying, “I am a Kemple, but I want no part of the other Kemples.” Or, “I love you, Dad, but I don’t want to be around your other kids.”
  • An army. A soldier is not the army; he must fight alongside in unity with his fellow soldiers (Ephesians 6:10-20). Paul described Epaphroditus as “my brother, my fellow worker, and fellow soldier” (Philippians 2:25).
  • A flock. We are a flock of sheep and we need a shepherd. Each local congregation is to have shepherds who are directly accountable to the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ (1 Peter 5:1-5; John 10). The elders at Ephesus were also called shepherds (pastors) and overseers of the church (Acts 20:17,28-29). We are commanded to place ourselves under and make ourselves accountable to the guidance of shepherds who oversee our souls (Hebrews 13:17). As a Christian, I am directed by Christ to be accountable to His children, specifically to the elders of the local church (James 5:13-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). Paul made it a point to ordain elders in every congregation (Acts 14:23) and to ensure that the evangelists Timothy and Titus did the same (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). An individual sheep left to himself becomes easy prey for the wolves.
We need each other!

More on this next Friday…

He Saved Her Life as a Baby

Today I want to share with you a news video of a police officer who celebrated a girl’s high school graduation.

Here is the summary from Inside Edition:

Cop Celebrates Graduation of Baby He Saved From Gunshot to Face 17 Years Ago:

“For nearly two decades, retired officer Randy Sutton has been Jacqueline Martinez’s guardian angel. Together, they celebrated the teenager’s high school graduation. 17 years ago, Sutton saved Jacqueline’s life following a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. He wasn’t responding to the scene, rather passing by when he saw the commotion. That’s when he saw Jacqueline; just a baby at the time shot in the face. Sutton gave Jacqueline who wasn’t breathing mouth to mouth.”

This video causes me to reflect on so many things, but I want to mention three for today:

  1. Thank you to the police officers, firefighters and all first responders that lay their lives down on the line every single day for our safety.
  2. Think of the sacrifices that others made for you when you were young that allowed you to be who you are today. Think of how others gave of their time, energy, money, advice, tears and prayers for you. Just like that young lady was able to graduate this year because of what a stranger did for her when she was a baby -we are who we are and where we are today because of the sacrifices of others in our lives.
  3. Consider your impact on others in your life. Think of those in your church family that may be struggling right now: how can you reach into their lives and help encourage them to grow stronger in their faith? Just like this “off-duty” police officer, we must always be on the watch; we must always have our eyes open around us to see those who could use our encouragement and help (Hebrews 3:13).

And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh (Jude 1:22-23).

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20).

Do not remove the ancient landmark

Do not remove the ancient landmark (boundary) which your fathers have set (Proverbs 22:28).

Do not remove the ancient landmark, or enter the fields of the fatherless; for their Redeemer is mighty; He will plead their cause against you (Proverbs 23:10-11).

Some things just should not be moved.

In ancient Israel, God ensured that property would stay within a family perpetually through its generations (Leviticus 25:23; Numbers 36:7). Those properties were marked off by boundary stones (landmarks) and God commanded that they stay put! Sure, it would be tempting to move the landmark and gain some property for your family, but it was considered stealing. Look at how God treated Ahab and Jezebel because they stole Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21).

“You shall not remove your neighbor’s landmark, which the men of old have set, in your inheritance which you will inherit in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess (Deuteronomy 19:14; 27:17).

In today’s church, there are things that should not be moved, either.

  • There is one gospel, and Paul says we must not tamper with it (Galatians 1:6-9).
  • There is one church, and it belongs to Jesus (Matthew 16:16; Ephesians 4:4-6).
  • There is one way, and Jesus is the way (John 14:6).
  • There is one doctrine, and the early church “continued steadfastly” in it (Acts 2:42). That same teaching was taught in every church (1 Corinthians 4:17). We are to contend for it (Jude 3), because it is not to be moved.

Just as the ancient Israelites did not have the authority to move the ancient landmarks, we as God’s people today have no authority to move God’s landmarks and boundaries.

We must have men today as leaders in the churches who stand for the ancient landmarks, and insist that we go back to the Bible as our boundary lines for everything we say and do.

Thus says the LORD: “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it’ (Jeremiah 6:16).

Hymn to the Fallen

To honor Memorial Day, may we all thank the Lord that He has granted us freedom here in America…freedom which cost many lives.

Please watch this video. The song is “Hymn to the Fallen” by John Williams. The photos are of cemeteries here in America and in Europe that hold the remains of our service men and women who died fighting for our country.

Most importantly, let us remember that Jesus Christ died on the cross to save us, while we were still enemies, from our sins (Romans 5:8).

Be safe this weekend, and remember how blessed you are.

Hard Questions

Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to test him with hard questions. (1 Kings 10:1)

I want to focus for just a moment today on the encounter between the queen of Sheba and King Solomon, and make two simple applications.

The queen of Sheba “came to test him with hard questions.” She heard of his famous wisdom and she came to challenge it. I do not think that was a bad thing. She did not have the hypocritical heart of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. They only wanted to test Jesus to find something wrong with Him in order to accuse Him (Luke 11:54). She had an honest heart, I believe. Jesus Himself told us to “Ask, seek, and knock,” which tells me God wants us to investigate and dig into the wisdom of God (Luke 11:9-13).

Solomon’s own advise was to “cry out for discernment, and lift up our voices for understanding” (Proverbs 2:3). That is the very spirit of the Bereans who did not even take the Apostle Paul’s word for it, but “they searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). That was the spirit of the queen of Sheba, she came with hard questions, and in Solomon she found God’s wisdom. I always tell my students that “the truth never suffers from investigation.”

Solomon allowed her to test him with hard questions, and he let God’s wisdom guide his answers. Men, as leaders in churches, homes and business, do we create an environment around us where others feel safe to ask us tough questions? Do we get defensive, tense and agitated when others challenge our positions? Solomon trusted in God’s wisdom and allowed this queen to ask anything. The queen of Sheba came with her best stuff; she really threw everything at Solomon including the kitchen sink, and he allowed it. With God’s grace and wisdom, he fielded all her toughest challenges.

God promised us that if we ask Him, He gives wisdom to us freely (James 1:5). Therefore, we should have no fear to allow others around us to ask any question on their minds. Again, the truth never suffers from investigation, so if someone challenges us, we should have the humility and transparency to direct our attention to God’s word. Have the confidence that with the right heart we will all find the truth.

Conflict Resolution: The Church

Today we will conclude our discussion of conflict resolution, still using God as the example, by looking at our leadership within the church. The local church family is such a unique and beautiful community of people. Within it are individuals from so many various backgrounds bringing different insights and perspectives. We differ by education, by economics, by culture, by religious history, by personality, by hobbies and interests, by family situations, and yet we are all called by one God and Father for the same purpose. In Ephesians 5:27, in comparing marriage to Christ and the church, Paul says that Christ gave Himself up for her “that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory”. Read Ephesians chapter one and see all the spiritual blessings we have “in Christ” and look at verse 6, 12, and 14 and you will see that all was done “to the praise of His glory”. To put it very simply, we are in the church because we are sinners in desperate need of the blood of Christ so that we can be reconciled to God and all of that work, all the work that has been done in us, is to the praise of His glory. It is when we lose sight of this that conflicts arise.

“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?  Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?  You lust and do not have; so you commit murder.  You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.  You do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”  James 4:1-3

The source of our quarrels and conflicts is when we stop pursuing the things that glorify God and start pursuing those things that satisfy or glorify us. Successful conflict resolution in all our relationships, and especially in the church family, always starts with our motives.

Our text for the week has been Romans 5:6-10.

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”     

It all started with love

“God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God’s motivation for all that He did to resolve the conflict that WE had created through OUR sin was love. He had our best interest at heart not His own. When I am in conflict with a brother or sister what is the cause? My pride and arrogance? Their pride and arrogance? My stubbornness or their stubbornness? My ignorance or their ignorance? Regardless of fault and blame, resolution will only come if I can put myself aside and act and speak in a way that is motivated by love. And not a warm, fuzzy feeling but a love like the Father that is willing to sacrifice to my own hurt in the best interest of my brother or sister. But we must recognize that God did not set aside truth or justice in the pursuit of reconciliation. In fact, the sacrifice of Jesus was absolutely necessary because the truth of our sinfulness and helplessness could not be denied and in order for God to remain just a suitable sacrifice for that sin had to be secured. Conflict resolution in the church is not overlooking sin, ignoring strife, and forgoing accountability for the sake of peace but addressing those things motivated by sacrificial love and a desire to bring glory to God. But what about when our motives are correct and the other party just won’t respond?

God offers reconciliation but doesn’t force anyone to accept it

The vast majority of people will reject the love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Do you think God knew that when He initiated the plan for our redemption?  As Jesus was enduring unimaginable pain on the cross, He watched as the people He was dying for walked by mocking Him with hatred in their hearts. The sacrifice was made for our reconciliation and God has never forced anyone to accept it. I believe that free will amplifies the power of Christ’s sacrifice and the love of God. The reality of rejection is the same for us.  I can do everything exactly right in the pursuit of reconciliation with my brother or sister and they can still reject me. That is why our own motivation is so important. When I’m pursuing reconciliation am I doing it to glorify my Father? The only actions I can control are my own and it is not within my power to control the outcome. It is important to have a goal of peace and unity within the church but we must always remember that the primary purpose of the church is to bring glory to God. Regardless of the outcome of my efforts to resolve a conflict, I can still glorify my Father in the way in which I pursue the reconciliation.

“If possible, so far as it depends on YOU, be at peace with all men.”  Romans 12:18