Fear, Justice, and Blessing


Fear, Justice, and Blessing

Ezekiel 39:21-29

Israel Restored to the Land

I will display my glory among the nations; and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid on them. The house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God, from that day forward. And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity, because they dealt treacherously with me. So I hid my face from them and gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and they all fell by the sword. I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their transgressions, and hid my face from them.

Therefore thus says the Lord God: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for my holy name. They shall forget their shame, and all the treachery they have practiced against me, when they live securely in their land with no one to make them afraid, when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies’ lands, and through them have displayed my holiness in the sight of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the Lord their God because I sent them into exile among the nations, and then gathered them into their own land. I will leave none of them behind; and I will never again hide my face from them, when I pour out my spirit upon the house of Israel, says the Lord God.

Hebrews 6:13-20

The Certainty of God’s Promise1

When God made a promise to Abraham, because he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise. Human beings, of course, swear by someone greater than themselves, and an oath given as confirmation puts an end to all dispute. In the same way, when God desired to show even more clearly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it by an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God would prove false, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us. We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Depending on which side of justice you stand on at any given moment, you may have a variety of feelings. Typically we associate anger as the feelings of the victims of wrongdoing, although this is not always the case. Likewise, we often expect some degree of fear in the perpetrators, especially if they have thus far escaped punishment. When we are faced with issues of justice involving an all-knowing and all-powerful God though, we get pushed into one of those two camps: anger or fear, even more often. People change. God does not.

Mark Batterson writes about letting go of fear and distraction and focusing on your immediate surroundings. In his book, The Circle Maker Mark challenges us to start small, in our immediate areas of concerns (desires and fears) and begin to pray for revival to begin in those areas. It is a beautiful concept and it relates well to how we experience and involve ourselves in justice.

There is so much injustice in the world, that it is impossible to take it all on at once. So instead, we break it up into various pieces and assign them different degrees of worth. If I asked you personally, which was the worst kind of injustice: racial injustice, economic injustice, spiritual/religious injustice, or political injustice – you might tell me they are all equally bad. However, a quick glance down your Facebook page would probably give us an idea of which of these you focus on more, to the neglect of others. We can’t do it all. Our best and brightest look for the connections between various forms of injustice, and while they may be seeing the bigger picture, it does not make correcting situations easier, it only make it more complicated..

So for today, lets focus on something we can actually work with: our own justice issues. What if we drew the circle around ourselves and asked God to bring justice there? How would that make you feel? Fearful or happy? Could you really stand for God’s will to be done through your life, even if it was not being done in everyone else around you?

Yet the path to true blessing goes through justice, just as the path to eternal life goes through the cross. You have a cross too. Jesus did not die on a cross so you could avoid justice yourself. He died on it so that you would live through the experience of justice being done. And that may not be truly accurate either, because He calls us to come and die so that we might be raised again (born again) in new life. We ourselves have to undergo justice and put away all that is not in God’s will if we are going to reach blessing on the other side.

What fears come to mind when you think of justice being done in your life?

What joys come to mind when you think of justice being done in your life?

What can you do today to invite God’s will and justice to be fulfilled in you?

  1. (Cp Gen 12:1–3)

Chosen to Bring Justice


Chosen to Bring Justice

Isaiah 44:1-5

God’s Blessing on Israel

But now hear, O Jacob my servant,

Israel whom I have chosen!

Thus says the Lord who made you,

who formed you in the womb and will help you:

Do not fear, O Jacob my servant,

Jeshurun whom I have chosen.

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,

and streams on the dry ground;

I will pour my spirit upon your descendants,

and my blessing on your offspring.

They shall spring up like a green tamarisk,

like willows by flowing streams.

This one will say, “I am the Lord’s,”

another will be called by the name of Jacob,

yet another will write on the hand, “The Lord’s,”

and adopt the name of Israel.

Hebrews 2:1-9

Warning to Pay Attention

Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will.

Exaltation through Abasement1

Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere,

“What are human beings that you are mindful of them,

or mortals, that you care for them?

You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;

you have crowned them with glory and honor,

subjecting all things under their feet.”

Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

One of my favorite television shows over the last decade has been Leverage, a show which was a modern day take on Robin Hood with elements of Mission Impossible (Condolences extended to the family of Martin Landau), one of the stars of the original Mission Impossible television series – a great show of that time period). Unlike the superhero movies which have grown in popularity since the Marvel Universe took off just prior to 2010 (Iron Man, Captain America, and Avengers) the team of “heroes” on Leverage do not have superpowers. Well, that is not entirely true… they have super skills, sometimes impossibly good skills in computer hacking, acrobatics, martial arts, and cooking. They represent a buffet of the height of human potential that always threatens to veer off that pinnacle and crash upon the rocks of self-interest and villainy. Essentially, they constantly struggle with the cross of being “good at” something and being “good for” something, as they seek to use their abilities to right wrongs and bring justice to those who have escaped or been denied it.

All of these shows have reflected and inspired our culture with the idea that one person can make a difference and that a team of people can make a real difference in the world, and furthermore, that you and I should be out forming teams to make a difference in the world. In comparison with the popular law enforcement shows of the 90’s and early 2000’s, this new brand focuses on you and I taking over when the official instruments of justice fall short. Pulling back out of the television, we also have seen a rise of publicized protesting and violent attacks – some in the name of justice and others due to a variety of other factors. There is backlash again as supporters of law enforcement counteract these cultural forces in a vast cultural discussion across the nation about justice and our role in it as citizens, written not with ink or type, but with blood on the streets. Going further, if we are to be honest, this whole discussion would probably take place with real words instead of guns were it not for the heavy influence of drugs and money – and the interconnectedness between them – that has permeated our society. In a very real sense, I fear many are fighting in the name of justice, but have crashed upon the rocks of self-interest, having been pushed off their pinnacles by drugs and money, the real villains of this story.

Scripture reminds us, and Hebrews in particular, that we all, as God’s children, are given a special privileged place in the world, along with responsibilities that go with it. God places us above the angels themselves in value, even if we do not have the supernatural power given to them. If we choose just a few verses of scripture, we can make a case that God created us to be super-powered instruments of justice, out to set the world right. But if we read more thoroughly, God expands that thought and shows us how in a way that may surprise us.

The ultimate example of a superhero is not Batman or even Superman, but Jesus Christ. Yes, I know that sounds like a Sunday School answer, but here is why. It is not because Jesus is more powerful than any of them. It is not even because Jesus is without sin and they all have faults and failures. It is because, while they all embody power of some kind, Jesus Christ embodies – meaning he shows it all His very being – humility. Humility and Justice do not sound like good friends, but in fact, there has never been a better marriage than between the two. Looking at race riots in our nation, whose legacy lives on stronger: the Klan, the Black Panthers, or Martin Luther King, Jr.’s? The battles continue, yes, but only one of these groups has streets and buildings created in honor of them, and it was not because of power, but because of following the model of humility. Internationally, dictators vie for power to win the hearts of their people through fear, but one woman, Mother Theresa won the hearts of the world, Catholic, Protestant, and non-Christian alike… through humility.

Our challenge today, while the world charges us to fight for power, the many of those in power got there and fight to stay there, is to watch the example of Jesus in the scriptures and in our lives, and find ways to use humility to bring the much needed justice to our world.

How do you experience the humility of Jesus?

Where do you see the need for justice?

How can you reflect the humility of Jesus in your own life to make a difference in those lives that need justice?

  1. (Cp Ps 8:1–9)

The Golden Rule vs. Karma


The Golden Rule vs. Karma

Obadiah 15-21

For the day of the Lord is near against all the nations.

As you have done, it shall be done to you;

your deeds shall return on your own head.

For as you have drunk on my holy mountain,

all the nations around you shall drink;

they shall drink and gulp down,

and shall be as though they had never been.

Israel’s Final Triumph

But on Mount Zion there shall be those that escape,

and it shall be holy;

and the house of Jacob shall take possession of those who dispossessed them.

The house of Jacob shall be a fire,

the house of Joseph a flame,

and the house of Esau stubble;

they shall burn them and consume them,

and there shall be no survivor of the house of Esau;

for the Lord has spoken.

Those of the Negeb shall possess Mount Esau,

and those of the Shephelah the land of the Philistines;

they shall possess the land of Ephraim and the land of Samaria,

and Benjamin shall possess Gilead.

The exiles of the Israelites who are in Halah

shall possess Phoenicia as far as Zarephath;

and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad

shall possess the towns of the Negeb.

Those who have been saved shall go up to Mount Zion

to rule Mount Esau;

and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.

Matthew 13:10-17

The Purpose of the Parables1

Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:

‘You will indeed listen, but never understand,

and you will indeed look, but never perceive.

For this people’s heart has grown dull,

and their ears are hard of hearing,

and they have shut their eyes;

so that they might not look with their eyes,

and listen with their ears,

and understand with their heart and turn—

and I would heal them.’

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

Everybody needs saving, but nobody wants to save anyone else. God let Israel know, through the prophet Obadiah, that this attitude won’t get us far. “As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head.” The idea of universal reciprocity is not a new one, especially in the Eastern Hemisphere, through the philosophical and spiritual concept of Karma. I must profess ignorance as to how Judaism and Islam respond to this concept, but Christian apologists claim that karma does not exist, especially on a spiritual level, because of grace.

The West seems to fall in love with it over and over again because it seems fair, and we like the idea of getting what we think we deserve. This is really attractive if we are an extremely good person and deserve reward. However, if you believe, as the Apostle Paul did, that we are all sinners and deserve punishment, karma is not a comforting thought. Paul believed that any good we receive in life is not our just rewards served to us by the karma-infused universe.

I think there is another reason to question karma as well. Justice does not always happen. That may be why the concept of karma was created. On the whole, lets say the guilty are punished and the benevolent rewarded 75% of the time2. That would make karma the rule unless it is broken by the 25% of the times that justice does not occur. In those occurrences, the idea is that sins not punished in this life are punished in the next, through a cycle of endless reincarnation. Here is where it really breaks down for me though. Since the proponents of karma fully admit that justice is not always received in this lifetime, they apply the idea of past-life consequences to present day ethics. What that means is that, to them, if something bad happens to you, you probably had it coming, perhaps from a past life, and if something good happens to you without reason, it was from a former good life you lived. The next step of this philosophy is applied to socioeconomics which creates levels of society based upon wealth and then reinforces it morally so that the wealthy are viewed as good, whether they act so or not. Their sin is excused away as either something that will be dealt with in the next life, or as something they deserve to get away with because of good they have done in a former life. The whole moral structure is built upon the assumption that we live many lives and are only judged across the span of them, not in the present.

Jesus, on the other hand, taught that justice is coming for everyone, but not until the very end. In the meantime, we are all given grace, simply by the postponement of judgment. Further grace is given in forgiveness – which sounds simple at first, but involves a substantial cost. For God to be just, a price must be paid, but rather than exact it from us, God took that punishment upon Himself by giving up His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. In doing so, God demonstrates the Golden Rule as a way to live life, even when justice does not reward you immediately. Whereas karma teaches us to live unselfishly for selfish gain, God’s Law encourages us to live unselfishly for unselfish reasons. With no guarantee of reward, it looks like God is crazy, and that is why Jesus explains that many people just won’t get it because they are looking out for themselves, not looking to obey God and be good. God’s way seems harder, true, but in the end, there are no guarantees for reward for the good we do. And if Paul is right, justice may not bring the happiness we desire anyway.

How do you desire to be treated?

How do you treat others in your life?

Where do you yearn for justice to be accomplished?

  1. (Mk 4:10–12; Lk 8:9–10)
  2. Although I think this is a high estimate

Holy Evolution


Holy Evolution

Jeremiah 49:7-11

Judgment on Edom

Concerning Edom.

Thus says the Lord of hosts:

Is there no longer wisdom in Teman?

Has counsel perished from the prudent?

Has their wisdom vanished?

Flee, turn back, get down low,

inhabitants of Dedan!

For I will bring the calamity of Esau upon him,

the time when I punish him.

If grape-gatherers came to you,

would they not leave gleanings?

If thieves came by night,

even they would pillage only what they wanted.

But as for me, I have stripped Esau bare,

I have uncovered his hiding places,

and he is not able to conceal himself.

His offspring are destroyed, his kinsfolk

and his neighbors; and he is no more.

Leave your orphans, I will keep them alive;

and let your widows trust in me.

Ephesians 4:17-5:2

The Old Life and the New

Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. That is not the way you learned Christ! For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Rules for the New Life

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. 5 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

If the word “revolutionI” implies a turning back than I suppose the term “evolution” must, in its pre-Darwinian root mean a turning forward. Most of us are against both revolution and evolution because it implies a change of natural state for us into something we have not yet seen. Even if we want to have a revolution and return to a time 50 or 100 years ago, we never truly go back, we just change into something similar, but different.

It happens in politics and it happens in our own lives as well. We grow and change and it makes us uncomfortable not knowing what tomorrow will bring. The death of Fidel Castro is a good example of this. The people of Cuba have been split as to whether to see this as a moment of new freedom or a reason to fear the future, for while Castro brought fear into many who did not support his policies, he also helped protect Cuba from being taken over by the drug lords that threaten and hold much political power throughout much of Central America. Change is not necessarily good or bad… it is just change, and we may encounter a bad surprise if we take on the attitude that it cannot get any worse than it already is.

Darwin’s evolution theory/concept/however you define it, is based upon the idea that the strong1 survive and the weak die. However, the definitions of strong and weak are rather fluid and undergo a kind of evolution themselves. What was considered strength 3000 years ago – muscles, child-bearing hips, an ability to go long periods of time without food or water, do not get you as far today. Communication skills may not have been key back in the ancient world, but they certainly are a strength today. It’s more than brains as well. The kinds of things that get you ahead today are not necessarily math and science in the classical sense. In our market-saturated economy, people skills and behavioral analysis have taken precedence over chemistry and geometry. What was once considered weakness is now considered strength… and still we continue to change.

God has another take. He brings justice down upon the strong – particularly the strong who lord it over others instead of caring for them. Then He invites the weakest of the weak to come join Him and be honored. That is Who God is throughout all of scripture, and He calls us to take on that same character ourselves. We are asked to turn over our strengths and serve in weakness, trusting in Him instead of ourselves. It is a holy evolution, that works contrary to what we all, creationists and evolutionists alike, consider to be the basic law of nature. We think if we want to survive and thrive, we have to be strong. God shows us that if we want to live and live abundantly in His grace, we have to be weak instead. Are you weak enough to live in the grace and justice of God?

What do you consider your greatest strengths to be?

What weaknesses do you struggle with?

How is God redeeming all of these?

  1. To be fair, Darwin’s claim was survival of the fittest not necessarily the strongest, but the concept remains the same.

Cry for Justice


The Cry for Justice

Psalm 142

Prayer for Deliverance from Persecutors

A Maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A Prayer.

With my voice I cry to the Lord;

with my voice I make supplication to the Lord.

I pour out my complaint before him;

I tell my trouble before him.

When my spirit is faint,

you know my way.

In the path where I walk

they have hidden a trap for me.

Look on my right hand and see—

there is no one who takes notice of me;

no refuge remains to me;

no one cares for me.

I cry to you, O Lord;

I say, “You are my refuge,

my portion in the land of the living.”

Give heed to my cry,

for I am brought very low.

Save me from my persecutors,

for they are too strong for me.

Bring me out of prison,

so that I may give thanks to your name.

The righteous will surround me,

for you will deal bountifully with me.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

A Life Pleasing to God

Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one wrong or exploit a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you.

The cry for justice rings out across the world. You have to stuff your ears to keep from hearing it in our ever-globalizing world. Those who yearn for justice in their own life often feel that justice left undone in their lives comes at the fault of the rest of the world… but it is hard to lay the responsibility upon every single person and thing that crosses our path (though some try), so more often, we opt for the second best option of blaming God, or so we like to think.

If you take a long view though, it is kind of ironic that God, the one we sometimes choose to blame for injustice in the world, created this world perfect. Even if we get really nitpicky and claim that it wasn’t perfect, because there was one initial problem with the world: that man was alone… God took his time and made man and woman one at a time instead of just both at once (or did He? and because of that there was a waiting period on the world’s perfection. Again, it’s easier to blame God than to look at the bigger picture.

Brokenness was not caused by God, it was caused by human beings. Both of them. They both hid after they took something they were asked not to take by the one who knew the garden and themselves better than any mind in all creation. Humanity transgressed and broke everything – and it was God who made the first call for justice in our world! And He has not been repaid yet.

We continue to sin, day in and day out, stepping on each other, breaking each other, and the world around us, and it was never ours to break. If God implemented the “you break it, you buy it rule” we would not be able to pay. Literally. We don’t even have the right currency to redeem our world, to make things right.

So we are stuck with this uncomfortable sense of injustice and the knowledge that, it is really on us and on those who came before us, and we don’t have any real answers ourselves. It doesn’t matter if we are globally-minded citizens, outraged by environmental and socioeconomic concerns across the world from us, or if we focus our minds down into a tribalistic manner and seek justice for ourselves and those like us. No matter where we turn, we cannot shrug off the responsibility we play in adding to the mess around us… and my own philosophy has often been: if you don’t have anything helpful to say, keep quiet. (Borrowed from Socrates)

What is your cry for justice?

What responsibility do you take for injustice in the world?

What can you do today to make a difference for the better? What help will you need?

Falling and Recovery


Falling and Recovery

Genesis 25:19-34

The Birth and Youth of Esau and Jacob1

These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,

and two peoples born of you shall be divided;

the one shall be stronger than the other,

the elder shall serve the younger.”

When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.

When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Esau Sells His Birthright2

Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

Matthew 13:1-9

The Parable of the Sower3

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

No family goes and grows with a 100% success rate, by any standards. Within any particular group you will find a leader, a facilitator, and an agitator… and in groups bigger than three people, there will be more than one of each. The leaders take responsibility. The facilitator’s negotiate to keep things going smoothly. The agitators make sure everyone keeps moving and growing. It takes all types.

What do you do as the parents of twins that are fighting with each other from the day of their birth? When you can’t please everyone because everyone can’t seem to agree on what they want, what do you do? Isaac and Rebekah picked their favorite child and ran with it. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) they didn’t didn’t pick the same child, so instead of one person being left out, the split resonated up through their own relationship. Having a “black sheep” of the family is hard enough to deal with, but what happens the family cannot agree on how to handle them. Disciplining the children is one of the big causes of divorce in families and the story of Isaac s family shows us why.

Jesus taught that not every heart we share God’s love with will be ready and able to receive it. But that fact didn’t stop Him and it shouldn’t stop us. God loves us out of an eternal abundance. He will never run out of love for us. If we love like Jesus, with the love of Jesus, we won’t run out either because we can always go back for more.

So, how do we deal with our family members that just don’t quite fit the mold, and some days seem like they never will? We show them the full measure of what grace is at home. We speak the truth in love winning them over with gentleness, not harshness. Even in cases where there is abuse in relationships, I find it helpful to think of the needs of the other person. Allowing them to mistreat you or others in the family is not only unacceptable to the victims, it creates an environment that accepts the abuser, not as the child of God they are, with potential for good, but simply becomes tolerance for them with an often unspoken belief that they will never change. In fact, it becomes tempting for the victims of that abuse to begin comparing themselves to their abuser – that they are so much better than them, or in some of the worst cases, that they somehow deserve it, because they are worse than their abusers. In either case, the Christian home is not a place for comparing ourselves to each other.

In some of the most healthy families, we are not only able to give those struggling members a safe and healthy home in which to find grace in the midst of their struggle, but we are able to learn from them as well. Without challenge, without those agitator personalities, we get stagnant and stop growing ourselves. They also broaden our perspectives. It is often these agitator folks who develop a passion for taking God’s grace outside the home and sharing it with people and families that do not have it, because they can identify with the struggles themselves. Remember, Jesus Himself was seen as a black sheep in His own family!

Where have you felt that you did not quite fit in?

Who are the those in your family that need extra grace?

How can you ask for and share that grace that you have received?

  1. (Rom 9:10–12)
  2. (Heb 12:16)
  3. (Mk 4:1–9, 13–20; Lk 8:4–8, 11–15)

Time and Place


Time and Place

Isaiah 2:1-4

The Future House of God1

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come

the mountain of the Lord’s house

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and shall be raised above the hills;

all the nations shall stream to it.

Many peoples shall come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

to the house of the God of Jacob;

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,

and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations,

and shall arbitrate for many peoples;

they shall beat their swords into plowshares,

and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

neither shall they learn war any more.

John 12:44-50

Summary of Jesus’ Teaching

Then Jesus cried aloud: “Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge, for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me.”

The Book of Ecclesiastes teaches us that there is an appropriate time, and an appropriate place for everything. The trick is figuring out when and where that time and place is. Unfortunately we cannot read the Bible like an instruction manual for life. It’s frustrating, especially when we have significant decisions to make. Sometimes it even makes us envious of the pagans with their fortune reading rituals and we wonder why we cannot come up with a Christian version of that. In truth, the Jews of the Old Testament used to draw lots to determine God’s will and this tradition even carried on to the beginning of the Christian movement, though to be fair, this was before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, when the Church was given more direct access to the wisdom and will of God.

One of the places we struggle the most is knowing when and where to judge others in our homes. There are two extremes that get polarized i these debates. Either we want to err on the side of grace and claim that a home is no place for judgment at all (and maybe it there is no place for us to be judging others at all), or else we put up strict boundaries in the name of protecting our family and family values from outside influences.

Regarding these relationships, Jesus told His followers to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves, specifically regarding the way we act when we go into places of persecution, but for most of us, this is not what our home is. Our home is the place where we feel strongest, most in control, most comfortable. Hopefully it is not a place of persecution for your guests, where they feel that they need to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves there.

Home, as Jesus teaches above, is a place of refuge for the lost and a sanctuary for the hopeless, and not just for ourselves. A true Christian home is so filled with grace that it reaches out and draws in others who are missing God’s love in their lives. It is a place of peace for those who cannot find peace in their lives. If home is the place we are strongest, than it is from home that we are called to first love even our enemies. In showing true Christian hospitality and love in our homes, we reinforce who we are as a family, demonstrating our values, not just with words, but with actions. Grace and law meet together when we serve others from our place of strength because there, even though we hold power over our guests, we show the proper use of that strength is in loving others into the kingdom rather than judging them. Home is not a place for judgment. It is one of God’s doorways into His family for all His lost children.

Where do you face the most judgment in your life?

Where do you find it easiest to welcome others into God’s love?

  1. (Mic 4:1–5)