Archive for October, 2013|Monthly archive page

Reputation – lost and found

Like other Canadians, I have been watching the reputations of four Canadian senators being torn apart publicly for weeks now.

As I watch, I wonder how I would feel if my reputation was being destroyed. I know I would be devastated.

Years ago, I worked with two of the senators involved. I was friendly with one of them – an affable, likeable journalist – although I did not know him well. He was respected by his colleagues.

Now, he and the other three are being accused of taking advantage of murky Senate rules to claim more expense money than they should. They have been largely abandoned by their political parties who are aware of public outrage with apparent misuse of taxpayers’ money.

This is an old story. Solid reputations that took years to develop can collapse in a moment. Sometimes unfounded rumours can be as destructive as actual misdeeds.

So, how would Jesus react to people like this?

The Bible makes it clear. He would reach out to them with the good news that they can find hope in him. Of course, they could only seize this hope by humbling themselves and admitting their misdeeds and their need of him.

Jesus spent a lot of time with people with a bad reputation. In fact, he preferred to spend time with them than with the so-called “good” people. He said it was his goal to reach out to sinners and not the self-righteous.

I think he did this because people of “ill repute” knew they were despised and without hope. The religious authorities condemned them, but Jesus offered them everlasting life if they gave themselves to him.

Sometimes we Christians forget about this side of Jesus’ life. I must say I often join the crowd in denouncing law-breakers.

But, a friend of mine spent years visiting people in prison, offering the hope of everlasting life – and help once they left jail. Jesus would have done that.

In the end, our reputations are worth nothing in God’s eyes. We all have faults – some of us are simply better at disguising them.

What matters is Jesus’ reputation. His reputation is faultless.

He loves us so much that he calls us his friends and brothers and sisters – if we give ourselves to him. Then, God the Father smiles on us because Jesus died for us.

We join God’s family because of Jesus’ reputation – which is good enough for us.

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Repairing broken lives

The 10-year-old son of a friend came home last week and told his mother about the young boy sitting in the next desk. “He was so sad,” he said.

The reason? The young boy’s parents had just broken up. They would each share him equally.

It’s a common story these days. Marriage breakups are common – just as common among Christians as among non-Christians. Broken marriages hit children at least as hard as their parents.

So, is it better to tough out a bad marriage? Hard to say. My wife reminded me today of the parents of a neighbour who remained married despite not saying a word to each other for decades.

Christians, though, have an option. They can change with the help of God. They just have to want to.

That’s the key – wanting to change. I admit to being defensive when my shortcomings are pointed out. Sometimes, it takes a lot of effort by my wife to move me along.

Not changing, though, can be as devastating to children in Christian marriages as it is to those in non-Christian unions.

In his book Shame off you, author and pastor Alan Wright tells of the day when his parents called a family meeting to announce they were separating. He was 9 years old.

“My world changed forever,” he writes. “Shame took up residence under our roof.”

Like other children, he is sure he asked whether he was responsible. He goes on to say: “With no father to wrestle, we will not learn to wrestle against the adversities of life, but will seek to avoid them by way of finding comfort.”

“In this increasingly fatherless nation, our orphan hearts will be healed of their shame only as we grow into the assurance of our adoption as children of Father God.”

Francis Chan, noted author and pastor, said some time ago that Christian husbands and wives must find their full satisfaction in God. Seeking a perfect husband or wife is a mug’s game. Everyone loses when we try to force our spouses to fulfill our vision of the perfect husband or wife.

For husbands and wives – and for their children – the ultimate hope is in Jesus Christ.

Real joy

Like many families, we enjoyed a great Thanksgiving dinner last night.

We laughed and talked and ate delicious food. We were happy together.

But what about people who ache because they have no family? Or, because they are at war with parents or brothers and sisters? They may look on Thanksgiving with dread.

Our pastor put his finger on what really matters – our joy in Jesus Christ.

As he said, happiness depends on happenings – joy depends on a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Happiness may rise and fall from day to day, but joy in the Lord is deeper and long-lasting.

One of my favourite scripture passages is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

The apostle Paul is telling me here that joy is not an option. I must be joyful always. I may be under attack by enemies as Paul often was. Or, I may be starving – as Paul often was. But I still must be joyful.

On the surface, this seems impossible. I am not going to be joyful simply by telling myself to smile and be happy.

So what is real joy?

I remember reading Romanian pastor Richard Wurmbrand’s story in Tortured for Christ. He was imprisoned first under the Nazis in the Second World War and then later under the Communists. While he was being tortured, he remembers being aware of the joy of Jesus’ presence. He was filled with God’s joy.

This is not happiness because things are going well. This is joy because of intimacy with Jesus Christ. This is the joy that the apostle Paul is speaking about in 1 Thessalonians 5:16.

In the 1 Thessalonian 5 passage, Paul links joy with praying continually and being thankful. Paul said we should take everything to God in prayer rather than worrying. And a thankful heart is one that notices the good things God is giving us and praising him for them.

As Nehemiah told exiled Jews rebuilding Jerusalem: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Why bless?

This week, several us joined together to place our hands on three people heading to Kenya on a short-term mission trip – and we blessed them in the name of God.

That blessing time had an impact on me – one of the blessers. And I think it had an effect on one of those blessed. She said after the prayer time: “I needed that. I’m glad I came tonight.”

What happened? I believe God was pleased with our blessings and was acting on them.

Our prayers were simple. We simply completed the sentence beginning: “May the Lord . . .” We prayed blessings of God’s joy and love and peace and fruit from their work. One blessing tumbled out after another as everyone prayed.

As many have pointed out, God blessed the first human beings – Adam and Eve – in the Garden of Eden with these words in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

God’s words outlined his purposes and his plans for mankind. In the same way, we can pray blessings over each other, knowing that God has plans for our good. We know that God wants us to be filled with his joy, his love, his strength, his peace.

Why bless? Because God wants us to. Jesus said in Matthew 5:44 that we are to bless those who persecute us and Paul repeated that message in Romans 12. How much more are we to bless those we love?

That kind of praying can be powerful.

In his book The Power of Blessing, Kerry Kirkwood says he was infuriated when a driver cut in front of him as he and his wife were driving along a Dallas expressway. He called the driver an “idiot” and his wife asked: “What did you say?”

He realized what he was doing and was contrite. So he blessed the other driver, saying: “I bless you with everything God intends for you to have. I bless you with the knowledge of the Son of God, and you will get home safely and be a blessing to your family.”

Immediately, he felt the “pleasure of God flood my body”.

God is delighted to answer blessing prayers of that kind.

In his book, he tells the story of a family that was falling apart until the parents prayed blessings over their children. There are other stories of circumstances changing as people blessed others.

Perhaps the greatest change is in our own lives as we bless others.

I know I am often critical of other people. I realize that is wrong. I am not to curse – criticism is, in essence, cursing.

Blessing people I am unhappy with changes my own attitude as God fills me with his love and forgiveness. That can’t help but improve my relations with them.

Blessing others brings the blessing of inner peace in our own lives.