Tag Archives: church family

How church families can have harmony – Titus 3:9-15, Part 5

16 Aug

Are you a person of grace? Or is giving grace hard for you? As we conclude this series on Titus 3:9-15, we get a peek into the church family that Paul was a part of.  See verses 12-13.  There he mentions his friends who were members of his ministry network, in which he was sending people here and there to serve the needs of the various churches.  Who were these various people?  What did they do?  We don’t know a whole lot.  Artemas is mentioned only here.  Tychichus, however, is mentioned in numerous other letters.  Zenas is mentioned only here.  Apollos is missionary teacher like Paul, who appears in many places throughout the New Testament writings. 

What we do know, though, is that in verse 12, Paul really wants Titus to return to him.  You can see how important Titus was to him.  Titus will only be at Crete a short while after receiving this letter.  Also in verse 13, Paul says Titus and the people in Crete should help these ministers Paul mentions and see they have what they need. Then in verse 14, Paul continues the thought from what he says in verse 13: Christians should be productive to help support those in need. 

There are a number of principles, then, in verses 12-14:

First, devote yourselves to doing good.  We have seen this how many times now in Titus?  Paul repeats it again.  That means there should be no question about what flows out of Christian lives.  God’s goodness should be clear, abundantly clear in our lives. 

Second, Be mindful of the needs of others.  Paul says, “see that they have everything they need.”  Christians are distinctly other-minded.  This doesn’t mean that we neglect ourselves, but it does mean that we look out for and are aware of the needs of others.  Especially in our own church family.  Paul was asking the Christians in Crete to provide for those in need.  In that case it was the needs of his missionary friends.  But this can and should be expanded.  We are a church family that cares for one another.

The last two principles are very related: Provide for daily necessities and Live a productive life. These are very earthy.  Christianity speaks to the nitty-gritty of work and paying the bills and making ends meet.  Boring?  Maybe, but important.  Foundational, even, is the daily work of life, to the mission of the Kingdom of God.  Your washing dishes, mowing the lawn, and working your job are injected with meaning.  I get it that work can be dull sometimes, even soul-sucking.  But no matter what you do, when you see your work from God’s eyes, it is transformed into something vital.  I’m not just talking about paying jobs.  I’m talking about volunteering.  About the chores at home.  Yes, kids, even cleaning your rooms, cleaning toilets or whatever your parents consider to be chores. 

Finally, in verse 15, Paul shares greetings and grace.  He says, “Greet those who love us in the faith.”  Here Paul is focusing on encouraging the church who he had spent time with.  And lastly, he offers grace to all.  Grace has been a theme throughout Titus.  So vital.  Grace from Christ, that transforms.

Grace is favor, good will, from God. We don’t deserve it.  We didn’t earn it.  God gives it, and thus learn from God and give grace to the people in our lives. 

Giving grace can be costly.  It sure was for Jesus.  Who do you need to be gracious to?  Who is it that you perhaps don’t want to be gracious to? 

What will it look like for you shower grace on the people around you?  I think some personalities have a hard time with grace.  For others it is easy.  No matter if it is difficult for you, grace is the goal.  Practice grace to the people in your church family, even those who are difficult for you. Is there someone you need to give grace to even today?  Someone you need to make things right with?  Someone you need to confess to?  So often we just let things go and never deal with them.  I urge you not to avoid this.  Instead go to a person, make things right, be gracious.

A three-step process for resolving conflict in the church – Titus 3:9-15, Part 4

15 Aug

Has your church family experienced disagreements? Divisions? Has your church had to wrestle with how to respond? It can be really tricky, right? Emotions fly, people get offended, and it can seem that no matter what option you choose, someone will not like it, get hurt, and leave the church.

Okay, let’s turn off the pause, hit play, and continue with Titus 3:9-11. There were disagreements in the church, Paul says in verse 9, that were unprofitable and useless.  Clearly, then, Christians are to focus on what is profitable and useful. 

Remembering that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we should want to live in such a way that even in our disagreements we should be Christ-centered.  There is a way to disagree that is loving and caring and in line with Jesus. 

Agree to disagree in love.  Recognize with humility that you could be wrong.  Remember that the other person is also made in the image of God, and is loved by God. 

Paul also teaches a method for addressing a situation when a person refuses to handle disagreement well.  Paul says, sometimes people are divisive, meaning that they can cause division in the church.  So in verses 10-11 he says, “Warn a divisive person once, and twice, then have nothing to do with them.” Paul is once again talking about church discipline, as he did back in chapter 1

Now, though, Paul mentions warnings.  Who does the warning? Paul doesn’t say specifically, but because the letter is to Titus, and Titus primary objective on his short trip to Crete was to appoint leaders, we could surmise that it was Titus and the church leaders who were to do the warning. Because Jesus also talked about something similar in Matthew 18:15, let’s determine if we can connect Paul’s teaching to Jesus’ three-step process, and perhaps we’ll have a better idea of how to handle this.  Go ahead and read Matthew 18:15-17.

See how Jesus’ teaching is similar to Paul’s?  Step 1, you approach the individual, and try to resolve it. If it doesn’t work, Step 2, take one or two other persons with you.  If that doesn’t work, Step 3, take it to the church. Churches have varying approaches to what body in a church should be responsible for Step 3. At Faith Church, our Leadership Team handles such concerns, and I recommend that for most churches some equivalent leadership group, comprised of spiritually mature leaders/elders, rather than the entire congregation, be tasked with Step 3.  So for Jesus, that’s how to resolve conflict in the church.

Back in Titus 3, notice what Paul says in verse 11: if a divisive person will not submit to this process, he calls them warped, sinful, and self-condemned.  They are not truly a Christian, as he said in Titus 1:16.  There he says that though they claim to know God, they show their true colors by their behavior.  It doesn’t matter if you say you are a Christian, or if you believe you are a Christian, when you do not act like one.  Paul says those people will do what they want to do.  Have nothing to do with them.  That doesn’t mean we can be unkind and unloving towards those people.  We should be kind and gracious and loving in all situations.

Paul doesn’t give us specific instructions for much for the nitty-gritty details of each situation.  Our Leadership Team has had to wrestle with these issues, and every situation is unique. Because of that uniqueness, we don’t always choose the same responses for each situation.  I can tell you this, though, that our Leadership Teams over the years have worked hard to preserve confidentiality, and we have prayerfully sought the Lord’s wisdom in the way forward.  That means we oftentimes take it slow, allowing time for prayer, for discussion, for situations to unfold.

Our heart’s desire, just like Paul’s is that all people in the church will grow closer to Christ, turn away from sin, and love and be loved in the fellowship of the church family.

Are you a Professional Weaker Brother or Sister? Titus 3:9-15, Part 3

14 Aug

Are you a Professional Weaker Brother or Sister? (Are thinking, huh?) I didn’t make up the title, but I’ve talked about it before, and I think it bears repeating in this series on Titus 3:9-15. If you are jumping into the middle of the series, I encourage you to go back and start with part 1 and then read part 2 before continuing here.

In this series we’ve been talking about how Christians can get along in a church family, even when they disagree. Sadly, Christians through the ages have developed a very divisive approach to various situations, and that approach has been described as The Professional Weaker Brother or Sister. 

The first problem is that Professional Weaker Brothers or Sisters do not believe they are weak, they believe they are right.  They believe they have the one and only correct view of the issue, and everyone else should view things their way.  They can make it seem like they are very spiritual and very committed to God, and in fact more committed to God than people who disagree with them.  They can promote abstinence in all kinds of situations, and condemn Christians who feel free to partake. 

In the situation Paul refers to in Romans 14-15 and 1st Corinthians 8 and 10, the Professional Weaker Brother or Sister would say, “eating meat sacrificed to idols is sin, and you should never do so.”  Another variation of the Professional Weaker Brother and Sister is “because you don’t want to be a stumbling block to anyone, you should always just abstain. Period.  It is wrong to eat meat.  Christians don’t eat meat.”  And then they try to convince others of their view, and judge those who disagree. 

Do you see what the Professional Weaker Brother or Sister has done?  They have totally scrapped what Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 10 that eating the meat sacrificed to idols was okay.  And they have made a new law where Paul never made a law.  Their new law is “eating meat sacrificed to idols is a sin, and Christians should never do it.”  What is it called when you make a law and try to bind other people to it?  Legalism.  That is the very thing Jesus so strongly confronted the Pharisees about.  They had made tons of extra laws and were forcing the people to follow their laws, and God’s law essentially got lost in the process.

That’s very similar to what was happening in the church in Crete, as Paul mentioned in Titus 1:10-16. So-called Christians were telling the church that they needed to practice circumcision in order to be good Christians. Paul says, no way.

We Christians, then, should not be Professional Weaker Brothers and Sisters.  In fact, we should be like Jesus, and we should lovingly confront the Professional Weaker Brothers and Sisters, encouraging them to grow in their faith.  There is a reason, I believe that Paul uses the word “weak” for the person is that is less free, and that he uses the word “strong” for the person who is freer.  I don’t believe Paul is saying “weak” means “bad” or “wrong.”  Please don’t read me saying that Paul is teaching that those who are strong in faith are better or good.  All are equally loved and valued in God’s eyes.  But I do believe that there is an undertone in Paul’s teaching that those who are weaker should desire to move toward a position of strength.

The main idea is that those who are weak are not be to judgmental and self-righteous against those who are strong and free.  Likewise those who are strong in faith are to be self-controlled and humble about the use of their freedom, willing and quick to practice abstinence in a heartbeat, so as not to hurt those who are weak.  This is vital in a church family.  In our Faith Church family, we have plenty of areas where we disagree with one another.  That’s normal.  That’s families for you.  And in Faith Church we have those more on the weaker cautious side of faith, and we have those on the stronger freer side of faith.  I bet your church family is just like ours. Let us love one another with graciousness, even when we disagree.

Do you have strong or weak faith? – Titus 3:9-15, Part 2

13 Aug

Do people in your church family have differences of opinion about how Christians should behave? In my church there are plenty of different views. Should Christians drink alcohol? Should people view R-rated movies or MA-rated TV shows? Should people purchase luxury items? Should we vote Republican or Democrat, or maybe even a third-party? Should Christians wear two-piece bathing suits? On and on the list goes.

As we saw in the first post in our series on Titus 3:9-15, the Christians in the churches in Crete were having some disagreements too. To better understand the issue that Paul was addressing in the church in Crete, through his letter to Titus, we’re going to hit the pause button on Titus for a few posts and look at a related topic Paul wrote about elsewhere.  Paul writes about the concept of the weak and the strong in Romans 14 and 15, and in 1st Corinthians 8 and 10.  In Romans he calls it weak or strong faith, and in 1st Corinthians he calls it weak or strong conscience.  His principle is the same.  It goes like this: when it comes to various matters in life, some Christians have a weak faith approach, and some Christians have a strong faith approach. 

Those who are weak in faith, or weak in conscience, lean toward the side of not participating in a certain action because they believe it is wrong.  Another word for these people is “cautious.”

Those who are strong in faith, or strong in conscience, lean toward to the side of participating in a certain action because they believe it is okay.  Another word for these people is “free.”

Cautious or free, neither is in and of itself sinful, but if the cautious become too cautious, and if the free become too free, they can become sinful.

Paul uses a real-life situation in the first century Roman Empire to illustrate what he is talking about: meat sacrificed to idols.  To worship in some Greco-Roman temples, people would bring animals to be sacrificed, its meat would be cooked and eaten by the priests of that temple.  Leftover meat would be owned by the offerer of the sacrifice, perhaps to be used in a feast, or sold in a meat market.  Christians had access, then, to meat that had been sacrificed to idols.  Should they eat or should they abstain?  It was a big controversy in the church, because, of course they don’t want to participate in idol worship. But just because they ate that meat at a later party, or bought it in a meat market, did that mean those Christians were somehow complicit in idol worship?

Paul says Yes…and No. If you want, read his teaching the passages mentioned above. I’ll just summarize it here.

First of all he says, idols are a sham.  There is only one true God.  But, he says, not everyone knows this.  Some people from that culture used to be idol worshipers, and now they have become Christians. Those people, he says, “are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food, they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol,” it defiles their conscience, which is weak, or cautious, and they believe they are sinning against God.    

On the other hand, he says, food is just food.  It doesn’t bring us closer to God, as the pagans believed, to sacrifice meat to the gods.  Thus there are Christians who eat it, enjoy it, and thank God for it, and they are not sinning against God.

The issue to Paul is that those who have a strong conscience, who are more free, have no spiritual dilemma eating the meat, and thus could become a stumbling block to those who are weak.  Paul says, don’t be so arrogant and bold about your strong faith, that you destroy the faith of the weak.  It is better to abstain.  But is Paul saying they should always abstain?  Is he making a blanket condemnation of eating meat?  Not at all.

Then he says a bit more in 1st Cor 10, starting at verse 23: “Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising an issue about it.”  In other words, if you get invited to a meal, even if it is at the home of an unbeliever whom you could suspect of serving meat that had originally been sacrificed to idols, don’t bring it up.  Don’t say, “Uh, I’m a Christian, I don’t eat meat sacrificed to idols, so I need to ask you, is this meat clean?”  Don’t get self-righteous about it.  Instead, Paul says, just eat it.  “Don’t raise questions of conscience,” he says.  Just eat it. 

But, he clarifies.  If someone else volunteers the information, “Hey, this meat was offered in sacrifices,” then do not eat it, so as to guard the other person’s conscience, as they are likely weak in faith, and thus by abstaining, you will be guarding your own conscience too.  In Romans 14-15, he will go on to say, that abstaining, which is the act of sacrificing one’s own freedom for another, is a loving act.

So in a church family, there are people who are weak, and there are people who are strong. It’s like that in every church. Christians who have differences of opinion about matters. The same was true in the churches in Crete. Those who are on the weak/cautious side, should not judge or condemn those on the strong/free side, and vice versa. Also, those on the strong/free side should be ready to abstain from a certain action out of love for those who might think that action is sinful. Check back in to the next post, as we’ll dig a bit further into how the interplay of the weak and the strong works out in the life of a church.

What that little pocket on jeans can teach us about church family – Titus 3:9-15, Part 1

12 Aug

Family.  Who do you think of when you think of family?

Growing up my family was my dad and mom, and my brother and sister.  Five people.  I’m so thankful that they are still my family. 

When my wife, Michelle, and I got married, though, we started our new family.  God blessed us with children, and eventually we became a family of six. 

A few weeks ago, our oldest son was married, and now we have a daughter-in-law, making our family seven. Although, it could be said that we have become a family of five, as my son and his wife started their family. (I think we’ll just go with “a family of seven”!)

Earlier in the summer my extended family got together at the beach for my parents’ 50th anniversary.  My parents were once just a family of two, but in fifty years time, their family was now more than 20, with all the spouses and grandkids. 

Furthermore, family is not simply biological.  Three of my nieces and nephews are adopted, and yet they are completely a part of my parents’ family. Also, one of my second son’s friends calls Michelle and me, “mom” and “dad” because of the close nature of our relationship. You may have relationships like that too. For those of you in church families, I hope that you experience that kind of closeness with the people in your congregation. In this series of posts on Titus 3:9-15, we will conclude our study through the letter Paul wrote to Titus, and we will see how Paul describes the church family he was a part of, and how that family was to relate to one another, in the difficult times and in the joyful ones.

When I read what Paul says in verses 9-11, it occurred to me that we might give these verses the following subtitle: How not to be a church family. Why?

Look at verse 9, for example. There Paul will tell Titus what the people in the church should do: avoid that which is unprofitable and useless.  It seems pretty obvious that people should avoid what is unprofitable and useless, right?  But it’s like we’re suckers for it, as much as we can get caught up in it.  Have you ever been involved in an unprofitable, useless discussion? Have you ever participated in an activity that initially seemed worthwhile, but in time was revealed to be a waste? For me it was phone apps and games. You can read about my personal journey to free myself of them here.

What useless or unprofitable activity is Paul talking about? He mentions three things: foolish controversies, genealogies, and arguments and quarrels about the law. Paul here is primarily describing theological controversies in the church, based in what he already said in 1:10-16 about the misapplication of the OT Law to Christians.  Now here in 3:9-11 Paul is saying that the controversies we get caught up in are often silly and thus should be avoided. 

Paul’s principle for Christians in a church family, then, is: “avoid what is unprofitable and useless.”  Let me make an analogy. Did you ever think about that small right front pocket in most jeans?  Why is it there?  Well, when jeans first became popular in the late 1800s, that pocket was pretty handy because lots of people used pocket-watches.  In time that pocket became part of what makes jeans uniquely jeans.  So though those mini pockets are rarely used anymore, clothing companies keep putting them there.  Here’s the thing, in 2019 you could say jeans’ mini-pockets are useless.  Even when cell phones were small, they didn’t fit in there. Try to put anything in there, and it’s almost impossible to get out. But if jeans didn’t have those pockets, they would look weird. That’s the funny thing about life.  We can get accustomed to what is useless, and normalize it!  We can accept it.  We talk about it.  Get excited about it. Or upset about it. 

How does this happen in church families? The classic example is the color of the carpet in the sanctuary.  In a building project one faction says the carpet should be tan, and another faction says the carpet should be blue.  They get angry, fight, refuse to agree, and the church splits.  Talk about useless and unprofitable. Sadly, there are many other such examples that church families have allowed to become divisive.

Paul says in the church, though, we should be people committed to avoiding what is unprofitable and useless.  He was mostly talking about conversations, beliefs, ideas, and practices of how we live out our faith.  The problem is that Christians will have differences of opinion about what is the profitable verses unprofitable, and what is useless versus what is useful.  At Faith Church we have a variety of opinions like this, as I’m sure you do in your church family.

So we need to agree to disagree, lovingly.  We can and should get along in a loving way, though you may have differences of opinion with those who think differently than you. As we continue this series of posts, stay tuned, because we’ll talk further about how Christians in a church family can navigate those differences of opinion in a godly way.

God helps those who help themselves? [False ideas Christians believe about…difficulty. Part 3]

13 Mar
Photo by J W on Unsplash

“If you are unemployed and need a job, and you pray for a job, don’t expect God to give you a job if all you do is collect unemployment while you sit on the couch all day watching Netflix and eating chips. Stop making excuses and get to the unemployment office!”

What do you think of that quote? Kinda sounds true, doesn’t it?  We even have biblical examples of this.  Nehemiah, for example, when he was leading the people to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, and they were being threatened with an attack, he didn’t just pray for God to rescue them.  He prayed and posted a guard. 

Or take dieting, another contemporary example. If you want to lose weight, it is good to pray about it, asking for strength, but you must also do the work of eating healthy and exercising. 

Why am I talking about this combination of prayer and work? Because the next phrase we’re fact-checking is “God helps those who help themselves.” We’re in the middle of a series looking at commonly-held ideas Christians have about dealing with difficulty. Earlier in the series we suggested that “God won’t give you more than you can handle” (here and here) is a phrase Christians should discontinue. But what about “God helps those who help themselves”?

Dealing with difficulty must be seen as the responsibility of both God and us.  So this phrase seems like a good one.  For the most part, I think it is a good phrase, but I do have one important clarification.

Does God ONLY help those who help themselves?  We can sometimes think like this.  When people are struggling, we can become very judgmental about them, very cynical, as it doesn’t seem like they are doing as much as we think they should do to deal with their difficulty. So we start thinking, “God will never help them.”  Or we can become very negative thinking, “God SHOULD never help them.”  Almost as if it would be wrong for God to help them because they aren’t doing enough. 

Doesn’t God, though, sometimes help those who don’t help themselves?  What if you are in a situation where you can’t help yourself?  Is it okay to pray for God’s help?

Sometimes we need God to intervene!  We can’t put God in a box.  He often responds uniquely to our pain, sometimes in surprising ways.  We would do well to be careful about becoming judgmental against those who are struggling, when we start feeling they should be doing a lot more to get themselves out of the difficulty. 

As Christians who are part of church families, we should not force people to handle pain all by themselves.  We are a part of community with a mission to love and help one another.

A few weeks ago, our home’s hot water started running out way faster than it should have.  It had happened years ago, and the plumber changed the heating elements on our water heater as they got corroded with build-up.  So I thought, I’m going to do it myself this time, and save money.  I bought the new elements, and I looked up a couple YouTube videos to learn what to do.  It seemed simple!  I put the socket on the bottom element to try to remove it, and though I pulled hard, it wouldn’t budge.  I tried harder, and the socket slipped, and my hand slammed into a sharp part of the heater, cutting it up, blood dripping everywhere.  I learned quickly that I needed help.  So I contacted a friend from church. He’s got the right tools and much more experience! The next evening he came over, and sure enough, helped me out.

Sometimes that’s what we need in our of struggles; people with more tools and experience in different areas than we have.  This is why God wants us living in community, in church families.

Remember the story of lame man?  His friends brought him to Jesus for healing, but the house where Jesus was teaching was so crowded, they couldn’t get in the door.  Their solution was to open up a hole in the roof, as roofs in those days were made of materials that you could open up.  They dropped the guy down on a stretcher right to Jesus.  Take notice of a prime detail in the story: the lame man could not go to Jesus himself, so his friends brought him.  It could be said, “that man didn’t help himself.”  But it didn’t matter.  His friends stepped in on his behalf, sought Jesus, and Jesus responded.  In fact Jesus says that he healed the man because of his friends’ faith!

Does that mean that if you seek Jesus you will be brought out of whatever circumstance you are in?  Does this mean that if you remain in a difficult circumstance it is because you aren’t working hard enough and so Jesus has decided he won’t help you?  Not at all.

This is why when people in our church are in hardship, we should be the loving community that visits them, makes meals for them, prays for them, loves them.  We don’t expect them to do it all alone. 

The general rule, though, is that when we ourselves are in hardship, we should pray and work towards healing and resolution.  And thus, the statement “God helps those who helps themselves,” has some value, but it absolutely needs the clarifications we discussed.

Check back in to part 4 of the series as we fact-check “During times of suffering you’ll be closer to God.”

How to be a peacemaker (shocking lessons from an “insane” person!)

3 Aug

Image result for seek peace and pursue it

All week long, we’ve been looking at 1 Peter 3:8-12 where Peter teaches a very difficult thing to do: when people insult you, ask God to bless them.

Is Peter saying you can never defend yourself?  I would submit that Peter would answer, “No. You can defend yourself. But there is a right way and a right wrong to defend yourself.”

First of all, if you are abused, report it and get safe.  We live in a country where there is legal recourse to deal with abuse.  That is a very good thing.  Not all countries throughout history have been like this.  There are certainly Christians living in places around the world even today where they are physically abused, maybe sexually and emotionally too, and they have no recourse.  Imagine how difficult it must be for them to hear Peter’s words.  They might not be able to get safe.  They too, however, can bless those who persecute them.

Thankfully, ours is a country where abuse and persecution are not tolerated.  But I think here in his letter Peter is primarily thinking about how interpersonal relations in a church family can get ugly.  Meanness.  Unkindness. Gossip. In those cases he is not saying, “Do not stick up for yourself.”

He is saying that there is a difference between aggression and assertiveness.  We do not need to attack back.  It will only make things worse if you attack back.

I once heard Ravi Zacharias say: “When you throw mud at others, you not only get your hands dirty, but you lose a lot ground in the process.”  When people are evil to us, or insult us, we are not to get revenge.  Instead, as I said yesterday, if they insult you, eulogize ’em!

Peter supports his argument with a quote from the Old Testament.  Psalm 34:12-16 to be exact. Psalm 34 is a fascinating psalm written by the great poet, warrior, king of Israel David. And it has a wonderful backstory.  The subtitle of Psalm 34 tells us that David wrote this psalm as he was reflecting on a really difficult situation in his life.  At the time he was a fugitive, on the run from his father-in-law King Saul who wanted to kill David.  In 1 Samuel 21 we read that David made the surprising decision, after retrieving Goliath’s sword (the same Philistine Goliath from Gath whom David had killed years earlier), to go to enemy Philistine territory, and of all places the city of Gath.  Can you tell that David was under a lot of pressure and maybe not thinking straight?  He arrives at Gath, and the Philistine leaders there are very suspicious.  In their eyes David was the most well-known Philistine killer.  Not only had he killed their hometown hero Goliath, but in the years following, he had commanded Israelite armies that had killed thousands of other Philistines.  Now he is in their town, hoping for asylum?  David sees their reactions, their doubt, their fear, and he starts thinking “Uh-oh…did I just make a horrible decision coming here?” This would be the Philistines perfect opportunity to get their revenge on David. So what does he do?  He acts insane, to the point of allowing drool to dribble down his beard!  I encourage you to read the account for yourself.  It’s quite a vivid episode in David’s life.  Find out how the Philistines reacted to his insanity ploy!

That is what David was thinking about when he wrote Psalm 34.  The whole psalm is amazing and deserves lots of attention and further study, but Peter only quotes verses 12-16, so that will be my focus here.

I’ll start in Psalm 34 verse 11, “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” I see David in Psalm 34 as older man, wanting to pass on wisdom to his grandkids.  Telling them the story of the time he pretended to be crazy, and then saying these words.  And what does he say?

He starts with: “Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days…”

You probably don’t have to look hard to find people who love life and desire to see good days. So for those who want that, what do you have to do?  David has some specific instructions.

He says, “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

Four things that line right up with Peter’s teaching, and can be summed with: control your mouth!  That means not speaking any evil or lies, no matter what has been done to you.  Then do good.  Turn from evil.  Finally, seek peace. Actually pursue it.

David is not just saying, “be a peaceful person;” he is saying the we should be actively pursuing peace.  Seek it out, make it happen. When you pursue something, you strive for it, and it often takes intense effort.

David, therefore, is not just reactive; he is teaching a proactive seeking of peace.  When our seminary president, Tony Blair, spoke at Faith Church a few years ago, he made a comment I’ll never forget, “mature Christians deflate drama.”  Peace-seekers reduce drama.  And that can be hard work, but it is necessary work in the life of a church, family, workplace, or neighborhood.

This does not mean you agree with people all the time.  It means that you handle things in such a way that drama is reduced.  This goes back to verse 9 and choosing not to react back, or fight back against someone who has been evil to you or insulted you.

Finally look at verse 12, where David personifies the Lord.  God is spirit.  He doesn’t have a body.  It’s hard to know how to depict God.  When I illustrated this part of the sermon, I chose a lion for the slide because there are times in the Bible when God is described as lion.  He’s not a lion.  But look at how David uses human body parts to teach us about the Lord.

Eyes – on the righteous

Ears – attentive to their prayer

Face – against those who do evil

What a comfort!  No matter what is going on in our lives, our God knows, our God hears, and our God defends.  That means we can take hope in the Lord and do good, loving those in the church family, even when people are unkind to us.  He knows, he is on the side of the righteous!

If they insult you, eulogize them!  Guess what I learned this week?  I should love eulogies!  I should be eulogizing all the time!