Is it critical to be critical?

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

 

You know how it goes: you find fault with someone or with some group. You know if you were in their shoes you would do things differently (in your opinion, better).  Just to make sure that others know you’re better at such and such than so and so, you voice your criticism.  There, now don’t you feel better?  Maybe, but did that do anyone any good, other than to give you a brief rush of superiority? Was it that important for you to be critical to one person about another?  

I find that the most admired people are those who never have a harsh word about others. Why don’t they speak critically of others?  Are they naïve, blind, weak? No, they are gracious. They don’t see a need to voice every unkind thought. In fact, their thoughts are probably not unkind and judgmental in the first place, but rather forgiving and charitable. They prefer to cover the sins and faults of others with love.

Not doing so leads to discord. It is a form of idolatry that presumes we share God’s authority and knowledge to judge what is wrong and right. Quite often we confuse a moral value with our personal preference. “You don’t do it my way, so you’re wrong!”  And when there is real sin involved we do well to heed the words shared recently by a friend: “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.” Though not a Biblical quote, Jesus would agree. (Matt 7:1-3, John 8:7)

Some sins should be lovingly confronted to prevent harm to the sinner or to others. Sometimes your opinion is better. Helpful criticism and suggestions, offered with the right motive and gentle spirit, are called for. These are to be spoken directly to, not about, the person. Anything else is just complaining to no good end except to serve your own ego.

Let’s learn some charity from the Master. Rather than sit in heaven and grouse about what sinners we are, Jesus came to save us from our ways with his death and resurrection and to model a better way while empowering us to follow it.  It’s not critical that we be critical of each other.  He will have the final say in the end. Meanwhile, let’s cover each other’s faults with love.

Pastor Tom

Our Mission

                

Our Mission: Drawing everyday people to faithfully follow God’s Word

Our goal is that every church member of FAITH …

Feed on God’s Word –

Actively engage in church and community –

Immerse yourself in prayer –

Tell your faith story –

Hold each other accountable –

What Goes In, Comes Out

For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts,
sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, Mark 7:21

Jesus was responding to Pharisees who thought that what they ate made them unclean before God. He corrected their notion that food was to blame and told them that the trouble lay in the human heart. The Pharisees sort of had it half right. What you put inside of you does affect you spiritually and morally. But it isn’t food. If evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, and adultery come out of the heart, then what went into the heart may have something to do with that.
Of course human nature of itself is capable of all kinds of evil because we are sinners from birth. But the world and its ways have a way of accelerating that evil. If we allow immoral and hateful temptations to enter and stew in our spirit then of course that is like throwing gasoline on a fire that’s already stoked. Our human nature doesn’t need any help sinning.
Quite the opposite is true. Because we are so susceptible to acting out tempting thoughts we are much better off when we throw water on the fire. Baptismal water is good. As we remember our baptism in daily repentance we can daily claim the renewing grace of God in Christ, who died and rose again to forgive our sins and give us power over them.
God’s Word is also a wonderful dousing agent to quell the flames of temptation. You can read it, hear it, speak it, sacramentally drink and eat it, and memorize it. If you feed on a steady diet of God’s Word the sinful nature is somewhat tamed. While never perfected while we are in this body, what comes out of a heart washed in grace and informed by the Word is clean before God.
The point can also be illustrated from a different angle in this familiar story: A Cherokee elder was teaching his children about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to them. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandchildren thought about it and after a minute one of them asked, “Which wolf will win?” The elder simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Be mindful of what you put inside you.
Pastor Tom

The Pride of the Penitent

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift,
through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Romans 3:23–24

Two things are applicable to all people: Sin and grace. The former is a quality of all human beings. The latter is offered by the grace of God to all but accepted only by faith. It covers all sins, everyone’s sins, regardless of kind or consequence.
Therefore it is amazing that a penitent can approach God with a perverse pride disguised as humility that says to God, “My sin is so great, I know you cannot forgive me.” If that is you, then what makes you so special? Why are you so unique that you would consider yourself beyond God’s grace? Did you invent a new sin that God had not thought of when he said, “Though your sins are a like scarlet they will be as white as snow.”? Isa. 1:18
Not only are you not unique in sin, neither are you one-of-a-kind when it comes to being forgiven. Our pride would lunge us forward from our penitential prayer into a flurry of good make-up works. It reminds me of the movie line in Saving Private Ryan when the dying Capt. John Miller says to newly rescued Pvt. Ryan, “earn this.” It sadly ends with a much older Ryan standing over Miller’s grave feeling doubtful that he earned the sacrifice made to rescue him. We can’t earn our salvation. That’s why Paul calls it a gift. When Jesus told Nicodemus that God loved the WHOLE world enough to give His only Son (no other sacrifice would ever be available or necessary) that WHOEVER believes in Him would not die but have eternal life, He meant YOU, not just the sinner next door.
So drop your pride. You’re not so bad that God’s love hasn’t already made the sacrifice sufficient to cover your sin. You’re not so good that you don’t need it. So repent, believe, and then go forth in joy, and in real humility.
Pastor Tom

Looking Back at Looking Back

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, Philippians 1:3, 5-7a

Though I know this goes out to many who don’t have membership at Faith Lutheran my thoughts today are focused mostly on those who are. If you’re not, however, feel free to listen in. Rather than commenting last week on the upcoming 50th anniversary events we had last Sunday, I wanted to wait and look back at looking back.
First, I must say I underestimated the value of celebrating such an anniversary. Caught up in the details of planning and conducting the service I was not aware until afterward how it all touched so many people. Many were stirred by the combination of the music, the procession of the vested pastors, the stirring sermon, the presence of our two remaining charter members, and the many reflections in letters, video, and in person from those who had been part of the past. Then there was the joy of the tasty meal and the many conversations throughout the family center. It brought joy and the perspective that can come from visiting the past. Our lives get too busy for reflection and introspection. We miss the meaning of the events and the people in our lives and don’t recognize God’s hand in directing our paths. This anniversary helped us celebrate and appreciate that divine path.
Secondly, I came away with an even greater appreciation of the congregation to whom the Lord called me almost 14 years ago. The one constant has been the faith showing itself in love. Over the years the faith has been greater or less but it has always been held moved by love. Disagreements have not reduced this church to dissension or division. You worked things out and still do. You have had and still do have pastors that fall short and are grateful that you returned to them the absolution they proclaimed to you each Sunday. Shepherding Faith is a joy.
Thirdly, looking back gives us the vision for us to look forward. Having seen that grace has led us this far, we understand better how it will lead us forward from here. Grace grows our faith because it tells us that God not only can bless us, but also that he wants to. What will be in the future for us? The One who knows will reveal His plans as we need to know them and then guide us to carry them out. As we continue to worship before His altar and abide in His Word, I am certain of one thing: “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Having looked back, I look forward with great joy and confidence, in Christ, whose blood set us free to be people of God.
With love, Pastor Tom