Brothers and sisters, if a person is caught doing something wrong, you who are spiritual should restore someone like this with a spirit of gentleness. Watch out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted too.
Galatians 6:1 CEB
Think about a time when you made a mistake and you were called out on it in public. Was your first instinct to humbly admit you were wrong and try to fix whatever it was you’d done wrong? If so, you’re a rare bird. Most people don’t react positively to being corrected (and humiliated) in public like that. Most people respond by getting defensive and doubling down.
Now think about a time when you were corrected privately. It’s still not fun to be corrected, but without the added embarrassment of losing face in front of other people, it’s usually not as bad. Sometimes, we run across people who are clearly in the wrong. If it’s a Christian, and they are doing something that is counter to the gospel, it often falls on the community of believers to correct that person. But we should never jump the gun and rebuke them in a harsh way
We should offer gentle guidance. We should speak to them the way we’d want them to speak to us. Sometimes that means taking them aside and gently nudging them back onto the right path. Sometimes it means just listening to them to find out why they’re doing what they’re doing (which can lead a person to realizing their own mistakes). What it never means is getting up in someone’s face and wagging a judgmental finger at them.
Gentleness isn’t a righteously aggressive rebuke. Gentleness is taking someone by the hand and slowly guiding them back into the light.
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God, Please help me to have a spirit of gentleness, especially when I notice someone doing wrong. Help me to remember I am a sinner as well, and to treat other people the way I would want to be treated. Amen.
Kristy Burmeister writes about stalkers, church-related trauma, feminism, and pie (pretty much in that order) at kristyburmeister.com. She's currently working on a memoir about a church that almost got her murdered when she was a teenager. (Spoiler: She's still alive.)
-Rev Myra Torance-
“Whoever is faithful with little is also faithful with much, and the one who is dishonest with little is also dishonest with much.”
Luke 16:10 CEB
I will open the door to my closet and admit “I am a word freak.” I am many things more but today I choose this to disclose.
So when I was asked to write this piece I went to my dictionary (it has lots of words) and I looked up “faithfulness.” Faithfulness (the word) means: true to one’s word, promises, vows---
The word “one’s” means you and me. I have always known of faithfulness to humanity, but I don’t believe I truly knew what my faithfulness was; until I gave birth to my first child and he was placed in my arms.
My husband and I counted fingers, toes, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, etc. And then it hit me face on. My husband and I had signed more than a contract when we married. I was now holding this little bundle that God, in Hid faith, had given me to love and cherish.
Faithfulness is one of those words we should live by every day of our lives. An apple tree is planted, watered, pruned and harvested. Thus faithfulness means to me, to plant and pray. I many not live to see it grow to its tallest or produce the yield, but I am faithful to the vow I gave to God. My first bundle will be 48 on November 2017 and I daily praise God for His faith in me
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Holy Father, parent in my life. As we grow, help us find faith in the ways that help us grow a full harvest. Amen.
Rev Myra Torrance is the pastor of Chelan Christian Church, where she has led the congregation for four years. She has been a pastor in the Disciples of Christ Christian Church for over 35 years. Prior to being called to the pulpit, she was the Executive Director for Hospice in Vincennes, Indiana. Myra is originally from Vincennes, Indiana, where she raised her four children with her husband, Bud, before his passing in 2011. Myra loves to write and enjoys time with her two Chihuahuas.
-Rev Barbara Taylor Minton-
...examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 CEB
In 1880, a baby girl came into the world full of life. Eighteen months later a devastating illness left the child both blind and deaf. Years of struggle and discouragement did not dampen the Keller’s hope for their daughter’s future. Keeping abreast of developments that pertained to their daughter’s condition, the parents made certain that Helen received the most current care. In time, with help of a dedicated governess, Helen Keller learned to communicate, graduated college, and became a world advocate for many causes, with a focus on improving the plight of the deafblind and people with other disabilities.
Helen Keller spoke out against injustices, supporting workers’ rights and laboring diligently for a woman’s right to vote. Learning of the life and work of Jesus, her biographers’ report her as saying she knew God was there, she just didn’t know God’s name.
Often in his teachings Jesus spoke of hearts that had grown dull, of people who had ears but could not hear the truth of his teachings or of people with eyes, unable to perceive the power of God in his actions. More than once Jesus concluded his teachings with a simple statement: “Let those who have ears, hear.”
Helen Keller proves with her life and her many accomplishments that one can hear and respond to God without having ears that hear or eyes that see. She also exemplifies one dedicated to a careful examination of life, hanging on to what is good, and even working for what is good and beneficial for others.
Throughout Scripture a thought prevails, an encouragement, a call for our openness to God’s activity, summed up in these verses from the Thessalonian letter. Be attentive to what God is doing. Don’t brush it off as inconsequential, but instead, “…examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good.” Examine life in a framework of faith, aware of God’s involvement.
Joseph, son of Jacob, provides an example of reframing his life to include God’s activity! Overlooking the murderous intentions of his jealous brothers who had sold him into Egyptian slavery many years earlier, Joseph simply said to them, “You planned something bad for me, but God produced something good from it, in order to save the lives of many people….” Genesis 50:20 Joseph, now the second most powerful man in Egypt, preserved the lives of his father’s descendants and found a place in Jewish tradition because he let go of bitterness and vindictiveness while hanging on to the good.
Don’t suppress the Spirit. Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages, but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. Avoid every kind of evil. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22
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Lord, give us eyes to see your goodness and ears to hear your voice so that we might reflect your nature. Amen.
Rev Barbara Minton, ordained April 1, 2001, now semi-retired, gladly serves a small rural congregation in Henry County KY, Berea Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She also volunteers in local interdenominational outreach ministries. Barbara describes herself as wife of one, mother of three, and Mamaw to eight. She enjoys journaling, which she began while living in Switzerland and Germany for 16 years. Now she will occasionally write on her blog, which she fondly entitled Muesli. http://bjm-muesli.blogspot.com/ Her hobbies include bird-watching and word-botching. She claims to get her exercise by jumping to conclusions, running at the mouth, and climbing the walls. Her partner in these adventures is Thomas, her husband of 53 years, and presently pastor of Eminence Christian Church in Eminence, KY. (When she grows up she wants to become a retreat speaker!)
-Rev. Joanne Walker Flowers, PhD-
A sensitive answer turns back wrath, but an offensive word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1 CEB
I lived in a small town, Sierra Vista, Arizona while working at Cochise College many years ago. It took a while for me to adjust to the dry, brown desert terrain but I grew to love it. There was such openness to the land, it was vast and untamed and living there gave me the opportunity to do something I’d always wanted to do, ride horses. Of course, first I had to learn how.
As a beginner, the quarter horses I rode were larger than I expected and a bit daunting. How could I possibly control this huge animal? But as every experienced rider knows, the secret to controlling the horse rests in the control of its mouth, that is, its bit. To illustrate the power of the tongue, James wrote about the bit controlling the horse and a small rudder turning a large ship. (James 3:3-4)
In Proverbs we read, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21) If the tongue is so powerful, why are we so careless with it?
Lord, I ask you to grow in me the fruit of kindness that I may speak words of love and healing rather than hurt and scorn. Control my tongue as I submit to your will in my life. Lead me, guide me, direct me, and please use me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Joanne Walker Flowers is ordained clergy in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) with a ministry of health and healing.
-Rev Paul Appleby-
Be still before the LORD, and wait for him. Don’t get upset when someone gets ahead— someone who invents evil schemes. Let go of anger and leave rage behind! Don’t get upset—it will only lead to evil. Because evildoers will be eliminated, but those who hope in the LORD, they will possess the land.
Psalm 37:7-9 CEB
I was once advised never to pray for patience. In a funny way it makes sense, especially when you think about how we become patient. Patience is learned through delayed gratification. Patience is learned through sustained low-grade suffering. Patience is, somewhat ironically, something we long to have but hate to learn.
Patience is a virtue, it's true
I recall a stand-up comic lamenting a lack of patience in our society. He recalled standing next to his microwave waiting for popcorn and thinking, "How much time is left! Come on, I don't have all minute!"
As aggravating as it can be, waiting for a snack, the patience of Psalm 37 is of a much higher order than that. In Psalm 37 the psalmist is addressing someone who sees the world as a place where the wicked are rewarded and the righteous suffer. This person sees those who are evil and unjust living high on the hog while they are stuck subsisting on the snout, the tail and the oink.
Where is God in a world like ours? Where is the justice? How can the psalmist advise one suffering such moral outrage, "Don't get upset… Let go of anger… Don't get upset—it will only lead to evil"? The Psalmist can give such counsel, because the Psalmist has faith. Faith that evil does not get the last word. Faith that God is just, and that God's purposes cannot, ultimately, be thwarted.
The patience of the Psalmist is not a patience that comes from being really good at waiting, it is a patience borne of faith. When we trust in God, when we share God's vision of the future, we can act in a way that displays a quiet confidence in God's control. In this way the patience to which the Psalmist calls us is the patience of lived faithfulness- fidelity to the God with whom we walk.
When the time of trial comes, when we suffer unjustly, when we see the wicked prosper, may we take heed of this advice. May we practice godly patience, and may we all be found faithful.
Dear Lord, give us faith in the face of evil. Help us find patience even when all seems lost. Amen.
Rev Paul Appleby: Raised in the Church, the teachings of Jesus came alive to Paul in a new and exciting way after studying the Sermon on the Mount, and rediscovering the brilliant, simple, and profound way Jesus encourages his followers to live and love. Along with his amazing wife Sage, he serves a loving Christ-centered congregation in Killeen, Texas.
-Rev Joanne Walker Flowers, PhD-
Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid.
John 14:27 CEB
On April 3, 1974, I found myself crouching in the corner of my dorm room waiting out a direct hit by a Category 5 tornado. When the storm had passed, outside we found everything damaged or destroyed. It was like a scene out of a disaster movie. Cars tossed against buildings were rolled up like Danish rolls. Buildings were flattened or huge sections missing. The water tower had fallen on top of the student health center building. Live farm animals were stuck in trees. There was no electricity and the water was of questionable quality.
On campus, we were cut off from the closest town and trapped on campus for the night. About twenty of us took refuge in the basement of the dormitory as we sat out the unrelenting tornadic conditions. As one would expect, emotions were running high. We were afraid and fear was expressed as anger, frustration, worry, and anxiety. After what we had experienced that day, we couldn’t help but dread what was to come.
I can honestly say most of us were not at peace with our circumstances and trusting God. We were struggling with our emotions when we needed the “peace of God that exceeds all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7) This is the peace Jesus gives us.
Over the years, life has given me other opportunities to choose peace in difficult times. It’s not always easy but it’s a choice and how I respond is a measure of my spiritual growth. Jesus has given us something the world desperately needs and I believe desires. Peace is a wonderful gift from God. And when we have cultivated the fruit of peace within ourselves, we can then bring peace to any situation.
Lord, please remind me to walk in peace as you did. Let me remember to bring peace not confusion or chaos to any circumstance you bring my way. I do not want to respond as the world but to be the light of peace to others who have lost their way. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen
Joanne Walker Flowers is ordained clergy in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) with a ministry of health and healing.
-Rev Sarah Renfro-
In every province and in every town—wherever the king's order and his law arrived—for the Jews it was a day of happiness and joy. For them it meant feasts and a holiday. Many people in the land became Jews themselves, out of fear of the Jews.
Esther 8:17 CEB
Birthdays and holidays are so much more fun when there’s a young person to help blow out the candles, unwrap the presents, delight in the balloons and boxes. A four-year-old does not know that her presence causes others to smile more broadly, laugh more easily, act more comically. But it does. There is an unbridled, untamed, and unabashed joy that seems to exude from the pores of a glowing child in the midst of celebration. And it is contagious
Esther did not know that she would be the one to usher in the salvation of her people, but still she showed up. Exuding beauty and grace, hiding her background and fear, she begged for mercy from the king that the Jews be saved from slaughter. And it worked!
Her willingness to be part of something beyond herself led to the protection of her people. And they were filled with joy! Of course they were! Although God is mentioned nowhere in the book of Esther, the Feast of Purim celebrates a saving act that could only be considered Divine.
One need not name God in order to feel the Spirit that radiates from those who shout with joy, dance with joy, eat and drink with JOY! In feasting with family and friends, we are able to know true delight, putting aside pretense in place of being present with one another and God.
Perhaps, Esther, in preparation of meeting with the king, pretended to be a child, who has no inhibitions and whose beauty shines from within. And in response, her people were infected with a hunger and thirst for gratitude.
When people are able to be themselves, be free from fear, they live in joy. And it spreads like the Spirit, infusing each bite of cake and taste of life with a smile.
May each of us “catch” the joy of a life lived in thanksgiving and share the Spirit with all those we meet.
God, we don’t even need to know your name in order to experience the joy of being in your presence. Make our laughter infectious, our gratitude contagious, and the taste of life delicious, like that of a child at a party. Amen
Rev Sarah Renfro is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Geist Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Fishers, Indiana. Born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky, Sarah formerly modeled internationally, was ordained into ministry in 2010, is married to Rev. Kyle Brown, mother to Miriam, March Madness fanatic (Go Big Blue!), and writer at m-bodied.com. Her ministry includes leading body image workshops and preaching on embodiment and faith.
-Rev. Evan Dolive-
This is how love has been perfected in us, so that we can have confidence on the Judgment Day, because we are exactly the same as God is in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love. We love because God first loved us.
1 John 4:17-19 CEB
During this time of Lent, we are on a journey to a destination that many of us want to forget; we want to jump to the end, we want the resurrection, the shouts of Hallelujah and angelic choirs singing. This road that we are not now is dark and depressing at times. But we can’t leave, we can’t jump ahead yet. We need to stay and settle into this of uncertainly and self-reflection for a while longer
We live in a world of uncertainty and fear; news channels use this to their advantage to promote their story line, politicians use it to promote their ideals and even the church uses it to bolster numbers and attendance.
The fear of the unknown can be so powerful that we are cemented in our own ways and in our own “comfort zones.” We eat the same thing for breakfast, we take a coffee break at the same time and we like our TV shows at a certain time and on and on and on.
The fear we experience in our lives is normal and natural but so is antithesis, the love that we have. Love is one of those things that we talk about all the time and strive for; in a nutshell, we love love. Love is a wonderful feeling and emotion. The author of I John is imploring the hearers to cast off fear not in a brazen way rather to settle into the notion of the abiding love of God. The author continues and states that as followers of Christ we are called to a standard not of fear and contentment, but to a standard of love for all others.
I John 4:19 is one of my favorite verses in all of the Bible. It is central to my theology of love for others; the only reason you have the capacity to love another human being (romantically or not) is because of the love that God has shown you. We as human beings has been given a gift, a free gift, a wonderful and miraculously gift, unconditional love from God. We then are to take this free gift and share it without hesitation to all people we encounter. If we at any point start to put conditions on the love in which we give then we are squandering a free gift that was given to us.
Being bearers of God’s love is of great importance. This cannot and should not be taken lightly. Thomas Merton, a Catholic Monk, once wrote, “Our job [as followers of Christ] is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody's business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.”
O God the source of all love, may we this Lenten season see you in the people around us; may we cast off our fear and open our hearts to feel what you feel, see what you see and love who you love. In the name of the one who gave for our sins, Jesus the Christ, Amen.
Rev Evan M. Dolive is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He currently serves as the Associate Minister for Family Life at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Longview, Texas. He is the author of "Seeking Imperfection: Body Image, Marketing and God," a theological examination of marketing and body images propagated in the world today and the Christian response. He also writes for various online publications and at evandolive.com.
He is currently working on his Doctorate at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX. He is married to his high school sweetheart and has three children ages 6,4 and 2.
“True happiness is to rejoice in the truth, for to rejoice in the truth is to rejoice in You, O God, who are the truth... Those who think that there is another kind of happiness look for joy elsewhere, but theirs is not true joy.”