Justice For All

Justice is getting what you deserve.

So what do you deserve?

Coretta grew up in the back country of Virginia during the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. She was politically angry at what she perceived as injustice against herself, her family, and her black ancestors. She’d lived for the fight of justice.

One Sunday morning I was preaching from the Biblical Book of Philemon. It’s the story of a runaway slave in ancient Rome, being sent back to his master by the Apostle Paul, and how both men should act to reflect Christ Jesus.

In my sermon I stressed the fact that Paul never urged either man to demand justice, but to show mercy. Getting what we deserve from God means eternity in the Lake of Fire, for the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). As sinners, eternal death is what we deserve. But God, who is rich in mercy … made us alive together with Christ (Eph 2:4, 5). Mercy is compassion, pity, love-in-action.

Coretta interrupted my sermon. Standing, tears rolling down her face she said, “Pastor, all my life I’ve been angrily demanding justice from politicians and people, but what I’ve really been needing is mercy. May God have mercy on me, a sinner!

No matter who you are, you will never experience justice in this world; even in America. Do you really want what you deserve? Seek ye first justice instead of righteousness. Demand what you think you deserve. Stir up strife and hatred in the name of justice. After all is said and done, you’ll be let down because true justice only comes from God who will make it certain in His day of Judgment (Rev 20:11-15).

Desire mercy.


Honor Your Father

Honor your father and your mother (Exodus 20:12).

Mark lived nearly 400 miles from his childhood home, but he visited his father when he could, which wasn’t often. Mark sent cards on major holidays and prayed for his dad every day. Mark had a life and family of his own, worked hard and lived simply like his dad had done.

As a teenager, Mark rejected his father’s beliefs. It didn’t take long living in the real world for Mark to realize that there was a reason his father lived and believed as he did. He learned to take to heart the man his father was and taught via his life. His father was a godly man, for whom his faith was always preeminent. His spiritual health and the kingdom of God always came first. Always. Mark lived the same way … now.

Mark’s younger brother David kept busy with his wife and two sons. During the week David overspent his time begrudgingly maintaining the family business with his dad. He had to work long and hard to pay for his ever-increasing lifestyle: mortgage, two cars, the new iPhone X, and everything else the modern person feels necessary.

Weekends were just as hectic filled with soccer games, Boy Scout meetings, and a constant list of honey-do chores on the home and yard. There were chores for his ailing father. Sunday was his only day off, so he spent it on himself watching television sports, playing golf, or fishing.

David was his own man who longed to make his own choices. The only real choice he’d ever made was to not be like his father. There would be time, especially for religion, later in life when life settled down. He was a good enough guy anyway.

When their father died, David angrily took responsibility of making the funeral arrangements. He blamed Mark for not being there to help when their father got sick. Now Mark wasn’t able to attend the funeral and pay his final respects.

Which son honored his father?

Blind Spots

By pride comes only contention, but with the well-advised is wisdom (Proverbs 13:10).

One of the first lessons of driving a car is to watch your blind spots. These are areas where because of the design of the car, you can’t see in certain areas around you. Every car has them and when driving a car that is new to you, you have to beware of.

In my car, when I’m making a lane change, after I check my mirrors, I always turn and look behind me. I know the blind spots in my car.

You and I have blind spots too. Areas where we don’t – or maybe can’t – always see. The thing about personal blind spots, is that very often we are blind to areas in ourselves. We might have great perceptions of others, but we can’t see ourselves clearly. Self is always going to be your greatest blind spot.

Personal blind spots are interesting because they reveal our pride.

How do you know if you’re proud? By the way you react when someone pops into your blind spot.

When someone points out a possible area of sin, a blind spot, how you respond reveals either pride or humility in you.

A short time after Kim and I married, she said a certain aspect of my driving frightened her. If I’d had a policeman in the car with me, would I be driving the same way?

What did I do? Get angry? Defend myself by saying I’m not breaking the law? Justify myself by saying everyone does it? Excuse myself because I’ve been driving 35 years? Strike back with, “You don’t trust me! Besides, when you drive you …”?

Pride angrily defends ourselves, justifies ourselves, excuses ourselves, or strikes back to make the other person look as bad as we feel.

What if Kim was totally wrong in pointed out what she saw as a blind spot?

Whether Kim was right or wrong wasn’t important. Because I loved her, I didn’t want to scare her. So I apologized for frightening her and worked at changing my driving habit.

Godly Fathering – Part 4

Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

My son isn’t a musician, a scholar, or a fan of rugby. Parents must take care not to push their children to be something they are not.

As a young boy, Daniel loved to read and study his Bible. He’d show up in the adult Sunday school class having his weekly lesson finished and ready for discussion. One morning he shared his answer to a question only to be rebuked by a jealous adult as a “show-off” and “know-it-all.” Daniel never opened his Sunday school book again.

Children who are pushed to standards that are impossible for them will become frustrated and rebel. Whether it’s a sport, a subject in school, or physical chores, when a father sets expectations that are not within the child, the father sinfully discourages the child and the child will discourage himself.

My son has a knack for entertaining. He has his own Youtube program that he broadcasts live several times a week from his own internet television studio. He has thousands of viewers and gets paid for what he does. It’s not my thing, but it is his, and I encourage him to be the best in what interests him. He plans to pursue his interest through college and into the workplace.

Every child is gifted in some special way by God. It’s the responsibility of the father to help his child discover that God-given gift then nurture and encourage it. When your child pursues her gifting, encouraged by you, her love of it will carry her throughout her life.

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).

Godly Fathering – Part 3

Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

In the ancient world, fathers were kings of their households. Under Roman law, a father could sell his children as slaves, make them work in any way he chose, and even put his own child to death for disobedience.

Today, we may not go so far as they did in ancient Rome, but fathers can provoke their children to wrath by being harsh. Anger creates more anger, and a child who experiences the anger or unfair treatment of a parent will someday mimic that anger toward others.

Over the summer of 1981, I stayed with my father and his new family. My step sister was only 3 or 4 years old and had an unusual habit of holding her food in her cheeks while eating. She looked like a curly brown-haired squirrel. When Katrina would do this, my father would flick his fingers across her cheek. Her eyes would water, but she she knew that crying would bring further punishment.

One night at the dinner table, he snapped his fingers against her cheek. I protested and got the same treatment. My teenage eyes didn’t water, they cried as I spit the blood out of my mouth. I’ll never forget his harsh treatment toward Katrina.

Yes, children need discipline, but remember they are children. In the Bible, godly discipline is always meant to correct and restore, not destroy or punish. The Golden Rule applies to you as a father just as much as to anyone else. Just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise (Luke 6:31).

Godly Fathering – Part 2

Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

When you become a father, you set aside your own life. No longer are your interests what matters, but the welfare of your children. No longer is your wife the primary focus of your attention. The age of dating and alone-time is over because it’s time to raise your children in a godly fashion. You are responsible for your children; not the school system, the church, or the babysitter.

One of the ways a fathers provokes a child to wrath is by favoring one child over another. Favoritism shows itself in a variety of subtle and not so subtle ways. One child regularly gets a treat from the store while the other does not. A son has daily chores while his sister does not. One boy is disciplined much more harshly than the other. A mother said to me in the hearing of her son, “Brenda is my husband’s favorite.” I didn’t need to be told that because I could see it. Favoritism fuels resentment against both the parent and the favored child.

This sin of favoritism is found in the story of Jacob and his eleven sons. The Bible says that Jacob loved Joseph more than all his children … but when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him (Genesis 37:3, 4).

Jacob showed his partiality to Joseph in a very visible act of making him a tunic of many colors (Genesis 37:3). In the dusty ancient world, clothing was made from off-white or beige colored cloth. Joseph’s colored clothes made his father’s love for Joseph stand out all the more. Their jealousy and hatred led them to attempt murdering Joseph and then selling him into slavery to nomads. By his actions as a father, Jacob watered and fed the sin of envy already planted deep in the hearts of his older sons.

Treating a child with partiality will provoke the less favored child to wrath. When this happens, the parent has sinned and may provoke his child also to sin.

Father, love your children equally. You may express your love for Billy differently than your love for Sally, but be careful that both are loved and shown the same love. After all, isn’t that how our Father in Heaven loves us?


Godly Fathering – Part 1

Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

Pastor Isaac Mathembe and his wife recently had their third child. Baby Kimberly is like every other child born. She constantly demands attention to her hungry tummy, her dirty diaper, or her entertainment. Generally speaking, the mother gives most of that needed attention in the early months of life, but as a child grows, the role of the father must also grow.

Years ago I counseled a woman who had serious relational issues. She’d gone through relationships like a box of Kleenex and her unreasonable demands on her husband were about to cost her marriage.

Her father’s example was a man so busy earning a living to provide for the family, that she didn’t know how a godly husband interacted with a wife, or how a father acted toward his children. In her mind, the husband/father was to be absent from the house, take out the garbage once a week, and make lots of money.

God’s command to Jewish mothers and fathers, was that they both teach His word and His ways to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up (Deuteronomy 11:19).

Every father has a God-given responsibility to the training and admonition of his child in the Lord. He is charged by God with sharing his life-wisdom, explaining the Scriptures in every situation of life, and being a personal example of godliness in his relationships at home and in the world.

The man whose focus is his job or fulfilling his own hobbies and interests is a failure as a father. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged (Colossians 3:21).

Love and Be Loved

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another (Romans 12:10).

One of the lessons Matthew came away from his first visit to Kenya with me was that he should let his pastor sit in the front seat of the car. I’m not sure how he came to that conclusion, but I accepted it reluctantly.

Yes, reluctantly. Reluctantly, because I don’t care if I sit in the front passenger seat or get squeezed with 5 other people in a back seat made for 2. To me it’s not a matter of being the important guy or the old man of the group deserving some preferred treatment. What impressed me was Matthew’s decision to prefer me over himself. He put into practice exactly what Paul wrote to the believers in Rome: give preference to one another as the demonstration of his love for me.

Christian love, the kind that God has for His people, puts the welfare of another before self. It willingly and selflessly sacrifices its own priorities, desires, plans, and comforts. This kind of God-like love requires two things. First, that if we say we love someone, we are humble enough to put his interest before our own, and second, that the one being honored is humble enough to accept the demonstration of love. It requires humility both to love and to be loved.

The Chief of Sinners

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to  believe on Him for everlasting life (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

Pastors fear to preach the message of sin. They fear to preach even more so to their own congregations, that they – even after they are born again – are sinners. They cringe at the idea, but such an understanding is not only the beginning of the gospel, but the continuation of the gospel, because without sin there is no need for a Saviour.

Child of God, do you not still need the Saviour? Have you moved beyond and become independent of the cross? Do you recoil at the suggestion that you are a still a sinner in desperate need of the Saviour? Do you suppose you’ve reached an apex of spiritual superiority and are a perfected saint who doesn’t sin, aren’t a sinner, and your life is filled only with occasional mistakes because you’re a king’s kid?

Written near the end of his earthly life, the Apostle Paul called himself at that time the chief of sinners. He knew he needed that fresh and daily reminder that his sins were forgiven by the redemption in Christ’s blood. He relied upon the continuing firm assurance that his spiritual life was only each day by the grace through faith supplied by Jesus Christ. He rejoiced in hearing the same gospel he was preaching to the lost, that the death of Jesus is forever of eternal value, meaning, and power for every sinner called by God.

The chief of sinners kept continually at the cross so that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him.

A Christian never outgrows the cross! It is where living begins!

The Freedom of Speech

… speaking the truth in love that they may grow up in all things … (Ephesians 4:15).

The United States Constitution is a remarkable document. It defines the role and function of government and lists the protections citizens have from their own government.

Our Declaration of Independence acknowledges that the rights of Americans are not concocted through a vote or dictated by any man or body, but come from our Creator.

Our courts have long held that every person – citizen and visitor, child and adult – has the exact same constitutional rights of protection under our laws.

Among the first of these rights is that the Congress cannot abridge “the freedom of speech, or of the press.” This means that no law can be made to limit, restrict, or take away the right of any person to speak his mind freely without fear of government punishment … even if that speech hurts someone’s feelings.

In America, anyone can publicly and privately speak and write favorably or against the government, a government leader, a political party, or any policy or law. You can be a Muslim arriving from Syria, step into the airport and curse the President, call the Congress vile names, and chant “death to America.” Those around you will not like what you’re saying, but the government is legally required to protect your right to freely speak and print such things. The Freedom of Speech makes America unique in the world.

In Ephesians 4:14, Paul describes the spiritually immature as unstable, fickle, and easily fooled. Spiritual immaturity severely limits the useful ministry of a childish Christian. Paul’s remedy for Christian babies is Bible teaching followed by more Bible teaching, with an added dose of Bible teaching.

Spiritual leaders are given to the Church for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11). This is accomplished through speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Freely preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth without compromise; remembering that freely speaking the truth of God’s Word must be accompanied by love for those to whom you speak.