“Look How They Love Each Other!”

1 07 2014

And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:21

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. Colossians 3:15

sibling hugThis Summer, my younger daughter is living with my older daughter (and her husband and their dog) while she does an internship for her major. This last weekend, I had the privilege of visiting them for the first time since that arrangement started. So far, nobody has killed anyone. I am happy about that.

The truth is, my girls get along really well with each other. They give each other a hard time, but they are also clearly best friends. And when they fight, they fight fair. That’s important. That brings an amazing amount of peace to a parent. I am pretty sure I would never have understood that peace until I became a parent.

There is an aspect of God’s perspective on our love for each other that is “parental” in nature.  Paul references it in Colossians 3 when he admonishes that church to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts”.  I do not read Aramaic, nor Greek. But I am told that Paul actually wrote peace of Christ in Latin (Pax Christi), so as to make it a play on words for that culture. You see, the nickname for the Roman occupation under which those churches operated was the Pax Romana (“Peace of Rome”). It referred to a kind of imposed peace which Rome enforced in all of its territories. It was an understood connotation of Pax Romana: you and your neighbor are both now  part of the Roman Empire…if you have a problem with your neighbor, you have a problem with Rome. Paul says we should let the Pax Christi rule in our hearts. It was a strikingly “parental” notion of making sure the “children” loved each other well. Of course, those of us who don’t speak Greek or Latin miss this play on words of Paul’s.

John used a similar notion in his writings, but much more directly. No fancy metaphors for John. Just a simple, direct warning which cuts right to the chase: whoever loves God must also love his brother. Same concept…”you are now a part of God’s kingdom…if you have a problem with a brother, you have a problem with God.” Loving each other is not a suggestion. It is a requirement. It is not something we do as we feel some warm, fuzzy spirit move us…it is a discipline which we practice as a matter of routine, one at which we get better and better over time. And we do it by faith, which pleases our Heavenly Father.

That discipline of loving each other is also what Jesus said would set us apart from the rest of the world. We would in fact be known by that extraordinary discipline of loving each other. The world will look at us and marvel, and some will even call us ridiculous and unreasonable because of how we love. They will call us naive and childish (and much, much worse). All because of how we love each other. All because our Father in Heaven insists that his children love each other well.

So, what about it? What does the world say when they point to you and your relationships with your Christian brothers and sisters?

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




Confessions of a Teacher’s Pet

10 12 2013

Tuesday Re-mix:

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”  “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.  They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”  Mark 10:35-37

teacher's pet

I admit that, sometimes during my childhood, under some circumstances which might come about upon occasion, I was, at times, capable of being…the teacher’s pet.  I do NOT admit to being crass about it, nor even intentionally manipulative about it.  And I certainly never perfected the art in nearly the way(s) my younger daughter seems to have done so (sorry, Reno…cat’s out of the bag now I guess).  But I will confess that, when one of my teachers may have favored me a little one way or another, I liked it…and may have even used it to my advantage at times.  Whew!  So glad to get that off my chest!

So, when I read about James and John and their not-so-secret desire for favored treatment with Jesus, I admit that I actually understand where they were coming from.  Don’t act like you don’t get it.  I know you do.

The truth about all of us is that we enjoy being favored.  We relish special treatment.  When the flight attendant comes to your seat in coach and informs you that you have been selected to enjoy a free upgrade into first class for this flight, you have no problem gathering your belongings and bouncing up to the comfy seats as if you deserve it.  When the police officer pulls me over and has me on his radar doing 65 in a 55, and then tells me he is just going to give me a warning instead of an actual ticket, I do not argue with him.  When we get our free “fast pass” to the most popular ride at Disneyworld and get to go to the front of the line ahead of all those poor, tired parents who have been standing in line for an hour, we say “Thank you very much” and smile all the way to the front.

We enjoy special treatment at restaurants and movie theaters and parking lots and at the office.  We enjoy it because, deep inside most of us, there is a prideful little boy or little girl who thinks he/she deserves it.  I LIKED being the teacher’s pet, because I liked what it said to everyone else about me.  It said, “Blake’s a winner…he’s a little bit better than the rest of you.”  It felt great to me, and to James and to John.  That’s all they wanted…just a little favor, even if it meant placing them above everyone else.  Isn’t there a little bit of James and John in all of us?

I am grateful for a teacher (and a Savior) who is patient enough with that part of us to simply say, “Blake, you don’t really know what you are asking, and there are plenty of times coming when what you are asking is the last thing you will want, so why don’t you just come with me and trust me with the blessings.”  I am grateful for a God who mercifully does NOT give us what we ask for sometimes.  And I am grateful for a Savior who stays close by and walks with us through the painful times, when we regretfully get exactly what we asked for.

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




The Long Journey Preparing for Jesus

3 12 2013

Tuesday Re-mix:

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way”—
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’” Mark 1:1-3

Christmas JourneyWelcome to the Advent Season, everyone!  I am certain this season is as special at your church as it is at mine.  Now begins the challenge of leading our people’s hearts to turn toward Christ as opposed to getting so entangled with the secular culture of Christmas that they lose sight of Jesus.  I know you are thinking about that.  You are considering how you can best lead so as to help your people “prepare the way for the Lord”.  In that regard, you, my church leader friend, are John the Baptizer.  Your calling this season is to help your people prepare for Jesus.

So, as you strategize about this Advent Season in your own church, and how you will help your people prepare for Jesus, will you just consider the following:

  • How will you help the single mom who is holding down three jobs and just trying to survive from one day to the next prepare her heart for Jesus?
  • What is your strategy to help the child whose parent is deployed or in prison or just disappeared to prepare his/her heart for Jesus this season?
  • What can you do this week to help that nursing home resident who gave your church so many good years of ministry to prepare for Jesus this season?
  • What is your plan to pour into your second tier of church leaders over the next couple of weeks, so that they and their families are prepared for Jesus?
  • How will your church minister to those who have lost loved ones in the past year and who now face their first Christmas season without them?
  • What about the missionary family who unexpectedly found themselves back here for the Christmas season instead of out on the field with the people they have grown to love?  How will you help them prepare their hearts for Jesus?
  • And lastly, while you are busy trying to be all things to all people in your congregation, what exactly are you planning for your own family this season, so that they will have hearts turned toward Jesus instead of resenting your ministry pulling you away from them?

John the Baptizer, it seems, was just a little bit crazy…a little bit different from normal folks.  And now we know why.  Helping make the way straight for Jesus in the hearts of one’s people is, well, a lot of hard work!  Shoulder to the wheel, my church leader friend…shoulder to the wheel!

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com







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