USELESS CHATTER . . . And what its use can cause

“Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.” (Reference: Psalm 34:11-13 )

I want to go back farther, beloved, beyond the historic Anabaptists – who of course exhorted their children and each other to “keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking guile. Eschew evil, and do good: seek peace, and pursue it.” I want to go back to the writer of Psalms who extolled the Lord’s virtues and deliverance. Who sought the Lord and found the Divine who delivered the writer from all his/her fears. And in response to this blessing from the Lord, the writer of Psalms exhorts us to live good Christian lives, monitoring our tongue and as a preventive, our thoughts.

More recently, that is, five years ago I wrote the following.

“It seems to be a simple formula; tell the truth and speak only of positive things and you will have good days. But let us be sure that we have the formula going in the correct direction. It does not mean that all your days will be good because you have told the truth and have spoken only of good things. There will still be bad days, sad days, days that are filled with pain, sorrow, and all the other turmoils of life. But what you can be sure of is that all your days will be like that if you lie and seek out evil. You have a better chance of having good days if you put only good and truth into them. And that is all there is to say. “

May you beloved chatter with purpose, compassion, forgiveness, mercy and love. Selah!

WRATH . . . A Final Word

“You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls” (Reference: James 1:19-21 )

I liked the NRSV that Reading the Anabaptist Bible used. And if you guessed it was because of the salutation, “my beloved”, you guessed correctly. But beyond that salutation there are a fair number of important things to take note of. Such as;

Quick to listen – how often in our busy world have we glossed over what someone was trying to say, or assumed we knew what they meant. Or worse yet, we were thinking what we wanted to say and so did not pay attention to what the other person was saying.

Slow to speak – measured words, spoken only after you know what has been said, communicated, and meant.

Slow to anger – or perhaps never. Feeling anger only on someone’s behalf, and only when it would make needed changes or remedy a wrong. Not anger for our benefit or because of our personal agenda.

No more sordidness – clean, wholesome and without blemish.

No more rank growth – but healthy growth nurtured by the Spirit.

No more wickedness – but purity of heart, soul, and intent.

These things I commend to you beloved, that wrath might not be in your temperament. And that God’s wrath might not be directed at you. Selah!

WRATH . . . God’s

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”  (Reference: Colossians 3:5-10 [Emphasis mine])

This time, beloved, it is not human wrath that is being warned against but God’s wrath that is coming to the disobedient. Although the writer of Colossians also warns against anger and rage.

Do you know what angers God beloved? The writer of Colossians tells his/her reader that it is our earthly nature that is not curbed. But what other nature are we to have? One answer is found in verse 2 that comes before this passage; “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” In other words, heavenly thoughts.

I have wondered just lately, how would we live if we believed that God/Christ was coming to earth again as in the final days before judgment. How would we live if say we had two years left in our “earthly nature”? Would it be the same way we are living now? And, would we live more accountable strict lives, being frugal and stoic in nature? Or would we live with abandonment enjoying the abundance and blessing we have now in material resources? I am not talking about sinning beloved; but sharing freely with others, volunteering our time, spending quality and quantity time with family and friends, not worry about tomorrow or any of the days to come. I do not think that would incur God’s wrath. Because, I think that was/would be New Testament living. And this is what the writer of Colossians was talking about.

But we are not in New Testament times. We are in modern times – earthly nature times. From what I read, since the time of the New Testament church we (meaning global society at large and not yours or my circles of faith) have drifted from living in anticipation of Christ’s return to living in a fallen and broken world. A world that incurs God’s wrath. Let it not be you and I beloved that incurs God’s wrath. Instead, may we instruct and encourage others to set their minds on heavenly things as we set our minds on heavenly things. Selah!

WRATH . . .? Turn away from it! Instead wink at ignorance

One man beareth hatred against another, and doth he seek pardon from the Lord? He sheweth no mercy to a man, which is like himself: and doth he ask forgiveness of his own sins? If he that is but flesh nourish hatred, who will intreat for pardon of his sins? Remember thy end, and let enmity cease; [remember] corruption and death, and abide in the commandments. Remember the commandments, and bear no malice to thy neighbour: [remember] the covenant of the Highest, and wink at ignorance.“ (Reference: Sirach 28:3-7 )

The book of Sirach can be difficult to understand, especially if it is an older translation. But if I had used a new version, that wonderful “wink at ignorance” would be lost. Instead I am using a paraphrase of sorts; Menno Simons wrote in “Exhortation to a Church in Prussia” a very understandable paraphrase of the passage. He wrote,
“He who seeks vengeance, says Sirach, will experience vengeance at the hand of the Lord, and his sins will surely be unremitted. Forgive your fellow his fault, for in that way your sins will also be forgiven when you pray. The man who is angry with a man, how dare he ask forgiveness with God? He who is like unto a man and shows no mercy, how dare he pray for forgiveness of sins? If he that is flesh nourishes and carries anger, who will forgive his sin and be gracious unto him? Ponder your end, and cease from wrath. Sirach 28.
Dearest brethren, do not think that I have written this admonition with a certain brother’s person in mind; not at all. But I have seen with my eyes and heard with my ears the heathen impurity of many a heart; the wicked pride and slander, yes, the cruel and bitter fruits that came forth out of the quarrel.”

Simons does not make mention of the “wink at ignorance” but then I would not expect a “serious” theologian such as Simons to use such jest. But I would beloved. I would.

Wink at ignorance. Of course, when one is truly sinful, then there needs to be confession and forgiveness. We must go to our brother or sister in love, telling them what we have seen. And give counsel and encouragement so that harmony might be restored. But never, beloved, never confront in wrath or anger, or use wrath or anger against anyone. For that is sin also.

If the offense is not out of a truly sinful or corrupted nature however, there is no need to confront the brother or sister. Instead understand that all of us may at one time or another (or may often) not respond or act in a way that is pleasing to others. Instead of taking offense, let it go. “Wink” at their lack of culture and pose – let it go. “Wink” at their rough ways – let it go. “Wink” at their faults and failings – let it go. If we do not wish to be judged, let us not judge.

May our Lord God who knows the true nature of each person’s heart teach you to “wink.” Selah!

 

WRATH . . . It is a “hard” thing to learn not to have

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Reference: Proverbs 15:1 )

Advise from a historic Anabaptist mom, Soetgen van den Houte; “If you are crossly spoken to, learn to answer kindly, and you will be loved by all men; for humility and meekness are acceptable to both God and men.”

Advise from a modern Anabaptist/Mennonite mom; Beloved, it is a deliberate act and choice to respond in anger. You chose the words you use; make the wise and gentle choice.

There are a plethora of stories and allegories about using angry words. A compilation of them goes as follows. An elderly person wished to teach a young person to be careful what he or she said. The elderly person said take your feather pillow from your bed, and cut it open in the wind. The young person did so, and all the feather flew out and were scattered from miles. Needless to say, it made a mess and the neighbors complained. The elderly person told the young person those feathers are like your words of anger; you say them and they go flying away causing problems for others, but you may not see the problem. Then the elderly person said, the lesson was done. Nightfall came and the young person was getting ready to go to bed but remembered his/her pillow was empty. He/she went to the elderly person and asked what she/he should do. The elderly person said go gather up the feathers. I can’t said the the young person. No, said the elderly person you can’t, they are gone never to come back, and you will have many hard nights of sleep because you have let your anger get away from you.

Beloved, may you make wise choices, using gentle words that you might sleep well. Selah!

GREED . . . . Assessing what is the greater love

“People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (Reference: 1 Timothy 6:9-10 )

I don’t love money, but I need money. I will often say I need more money! And I am reminded of people who have less money than I do – some much less. And I think maybe I should be satisfied with what I have. I am gratified that I can say I have not done things that have brought ruin or destruction to anyone because of the love of money. That is a claim that some people cannot make? I will not ask you, beloved, how your relationship with money is. That is a question thought to be very private.

But I will ask you how your relationship with God is. Because many times a faulty relationship with money means a faulty relationship with God. You can be rich, and have a good relationship with God. You can be poor, and have a good relationship with God. But if you put money first in your priorities, most likely you do NOT have a good relationship with God. And if you have hurt/harmed etc someone because of your unhealthy love of money, I can pretty much guarantee you do not have a good relationship with God UNLESS you have confessed your sin!

I will admit to worrying more about money than I should, and letting those fears lessen my trust in God, and yes, that is a type of sinning. Beloved, I never said I was absolutely sin free! But God, in the Divine’s grace and mercy, keeps reminding me not to worry and to trust. Not that I believe God is going to magically/miraculously multiply the money I have like the loaves and fishes. God’s promise is that the Divine will be with me and upheld me whatever happens.

Many, many years ago beloved, I had come up short with the amount of money that we needed. Just a few minutes after I realized that, the song “Testify to Love” (by Avalon) came on the radio. I was just a few months into a deeper level of Christian living I had been called to. And it really tested me to say “With every breath I take I will give thanks to God above /
For as long as I shall live / I will testify to love” when I did not know how we would manage. But we did, and we have. It does not matter if we have a lot of dollars or a small amount of dollars – if the love of money gets in the way of our love of/for God, then we have a problem.

May you beloved make wise choices in all things; but you make the wisest choice – loving God and placing the Lord foremost in your life! Selah!

GREED . . . . When it takes from Christian life

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (Reference: Ephesians 5:1-5 )

There are, I think beloved, worse things than greed. But that may just be my opinion since the writer of Ephesians lumps it in with sexual immorality and any other kind of impurity. I would agree if greed rises to the level of idolatry, that is placing possession above and in place of the worship of God, greed is a terrible sin.

This is a view and opinion held by many Christians throughout time, and by historic and Modern Anabaptists Mennonites. Hans Schlaffer speaks for many when he say in his “Brief Instruction for the Beginning of a Truly Christian Life”

“It should be easy, for God’s sake, to tell from these words of Peter who is a Christian and who not. For whoever has been burdened down with the vices of lewdness, gluttony, drunkenness, blasphemers, and idolatry (Paul recalls avarice a service of idolatry, Eph. 5:5) in the world for a long time and still is, such a one is not a Christian, says Peter. It is a common saying that the devil has knocked out their bottoms. Paul says likewise that no one should be able to charge you with fornication, uncleanness and greed. That should be obvious for the saints, that is, all Christians. Shameful words, foolish behaviour, and levity that produces no good but rather vexation, and which cannot be reconciled with Christian living, must be avoided. Instead give thanks. For you must know that no fornicator or unclean or greedy person will inherit the kingdom of God. “

I want to take special note, beloved, that Schlaffer says “Shameful words, foolish behaviour, and levity that produces no good but rather vexation, and which cannot be reconciled with Christian living”. Although it may be hard to believe from these writings of historic Anabaptists, Anabaptists/Mennonites can have a sense of humor and a good one at that.

As dearly loved children of God, Anabaptists/Mennonites (not that I am saying Anabaptists/Mennonites are especially worthy but that God in the Divine’s benevolence and tolerance loves all people the same) strive to live a life of love. And with love comes laughter and joy, see the foibles in all creation and celebrating it with humor.

Greed takes this away, says I want it all for myself and I will use it as I see fit not sharing or giving thought to others. This is greed in all of its ugliest and impurity. This should not be your way beloved.

May the God who gave freely to all creation guide your ways, and may you be supplied with enough of all the good and joyful things of life that you can share abundantly. Selah!