The good fruit of correction


Not many of us like correction. When you were little were you timid and easily molded by your parents instruction or did you have a rebellious internal spirit, difficult to tame and lead, what Dr. Dobson would refer to as the “Strong Willed Child”? Maybe you were a mash up- delightful one minute but bullheaded.

Even if we were easily corrected as a child, no child really likes correction. Who loved a spanking or even a good talking to? Whether we cowered at our parents’ mention of time out or busted full throttle through a threat and on to serious discipline, the correction itself is not the part we liked so much as the satisfaction of independence.

As adults, we’re not much different. No one naturally likes a demerit at work, no one loves to be the one who receives a redo on a project, or a “honey, could you do such-and-such differently” at home. We might like the fruit of correction eventually – a promotion, better understanding, richer marriage communication – but criticism, even when it’s absolutely and wholly constructive, is not found on any of our lists of “Favorite Things”.

James has something to say about correction in James 4:5-10. First focus only on the center of this section and then we’ll zoom out. James 4:7-9:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

This is correction. A requirement to submit to the authority in charge, namely our mom or dad, our husbands, our teachers, our bosses, or our government leaders. Our internal spirit vacillates between relief that someone else is in charge and frustration that it’s not us. We like control, so submission, even in the most submissive of individuals, is a task of growth, best done intentionally.

Listen to James’s words – submit, humble, cleanse, purify. I’m reminded of just how hard it is to get my kids to remember to intentionally wash their hands after using the bathroom, much less the intentional work of submitting to my husband, even though he is kind of gentle, and to my government leaders when I rarely 100% agree with their ideas and laws.

But we submit to a Higher Authority first. Our big beef with correction when we get down to it, is that God is in charge and we are not. We like to choose our own path, direct our own ways and we simply were not made for that. James uses the best language imaginable for the type of submission that goes with correction in our relationship with God. Look back at James 4:8 –

Draw near to God…

Write it somewhere to remember it. If I were crazy (and I am) I would write it on my hand, or my foot, or the top of my knee, to remind me that relationship with God means bending said knee and bowing my pretty little head. It is submission and that’s important- He’s Holy and Mighty and Far Above. But God operates differently in relationship with Him than He does outside of relationship with Him. Submitting in relationship with God is drawing near, being held, and yes, being corrected.

Zoom out to the wider view of James 4:5-10. Read the whole passage below. If you have your Bible out, underline verses 5-6 to see the relationship that we are given with our Father through the Savior.

Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

He gives more grace…

That’s Who He is. He gives more grace. Correction is hard…

That pinprick of the conscience when we know we’ve done wrong

Opening our mouth for words of apology when we have spoken too harshly

Walking the hard road because we took our own way the first time around

Correction is hard.

But take heart! Correction by the Father is always delivered with grace. We can see the fruits of it through this lens.

Forgiveness can come in –

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9

Goodness comes in, completeness comes in  –

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.   2 Timothy 3:16

Rootedness comes in –

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
    but he who hates reproof is stupid.
No one is established by wickedness,
    but the root of the righteous will never be moved.          Proverbs 12:1,3

These are good fruits! God fruits.

James calls our laughter to be mourning and our joy to be gloom, but only because he knows that in that correction for a moment, we can see the light of Eternity forever.

We see our God clearer and closer. He’s right there, eyes in the back of His head, just like a Father, watching in tenderness.

He gives more grace…Draw near…

He’s ready to pick us up when we fall down, dust us off, and help us along as we journey the steep and the narrow, the wide and the open, always one day closer and nearer to Him.

 

Discussion:

What were you like as a child? How did you deal with correction?

Is there any particular instance of correction you remember growing up?

How has God corrected you in adulthood and when is a time you came through the correction, thankful for His guidance?

An opening torn

Casting Away Stones – Ecclesiastes 3
Week 7 – Ecclesiastes 3:7

Day One: An opening torn
Day Two: A God who sews
Day Three: Foot in mouth, rams horns, and blessed silence
Day Four: a time to speak
Day Five: Mending with words


Heart verse:
Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
    sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
                                                        Proverbs 16:24


Photo credit to http://sarahebaughman.blogspot.com/



Day 1 – An opening torn


My friend, Sarah, is a seamstress. 

I am so impressed with her. I do not sew. I can do buttons, or even a patch, but to turn on a machine and create something wonderful is not my forte. She creates all kinds of garments – skirts for her goddaughters, fun bags for friends, and very ornate historical costumes. I’m in awe. One minute it’s a piece of fabric, another minute it’s something wearable, fitted perfectly to an individual, making someone feel loved and beautiful. She’s also the artist for our prayer card this week. (Check it out under the Casting Stones tab at the top of this page.)

Ecclesiastes 3:7 –
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

The word for tear in Hebrew is from the root word “qara” (kaw-rah).*
This word can mean to tear, to rend, to tear apart, to split apart. It is notably used in the Old Testament in relationship to grief and loss. It sounds like we moved back a couple of weeks to a time to weep and a time to mourn. All over the Old Testament, and even a little in the New Testament, people are tearing their garments out of grief or distress. Have no fear! While these are commonly related, we are not going to work through that again. Just know that they are related. If you’d like some examples to look up, here are a few:

Genesis 37:29-36 – Rueben tears his clothes in response to the brothers misuse of Joseph
Ezra 9:1-9 – Ezra tears his garment in grief over Israel’s faithlessness
1 Kings 11:7-13 – Solomon’s kingdom is torn from him, because he has been unfaithful to the Lord

But God, He does a different kind of tearing.
We don’t want to miss it.That is the tearing we are going to look at today. There was a time for tearing in response to grief and loss, and there will be a times of grief and loss in our own lives. God has also revealed something new, though. He has torn the Old away and ushered in the New. Let’s look at Matthew 27:45-54 –

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

The temple curtain torn. The New has come.

Hebrews 10:14-23 helps to clarify this –
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
    and write them on their minds,”
17 then he adds,
I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

He who promised is faithful. All I can say to that is Amen! Let’s look at some of the language in the passage as explanation for the significance of the temple curtain, torn in two. Top to bottom, torn.

Look back through the passage above for these phrases. If you have your Bible out, let’s do a little underlining…
a single offering”
the Holy Spirit also bears witness”
the covenant that I will make”
where there is forgiveness”
the new and living way”
full assurance of faith”

Which one of these phrases speaks Grace into your life this day?
Find a phrase and breathe it in. Each of the words feel fresh off the page for me as I write this, even though they are centuries old. Bask in the mercy of the New Covenant. And listen to this phrase in particular, hear it with freshness –
since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain…”

He has opened the holy places for us. The curtain torn in two means that we no longer need to rend anything. Joel 2:12-13 is a beautiful passage with another tearing –
Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
    and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
    and he relents over disaster.

We can only see the mercy and grace of this passage through Christ’s tearing. Nothing can compare to the riches of Christ’s new covenant, Christ’s new tearing. The message of Scripture, within the framework of Christ’s new covenant for us as believers, is not simply in the tearing, but what the tearing does…the opening.

With Christ’s death on the cross (“through His flesh” in Hebrews 10:20), everything holy is open wide. Doors flung open, but even more torn open. The tearing is painful, but Christ took that tearing for me. And when that temple curtain was torn in two, open wide, out came forgiveness and mercy, in a way the world had not even begun to consider before.
Rend your hearts and not your garments…” says Joel 2:13, because we can “draw near with a true heart in full assurance…” We stand before God and ask Him to open wide our hearts. Open wide our hearts to Him, to His children, to His work, to everything that is eternal and gracious, and just.

When we read tear, we ask God to tear open anything that stands between Him and us, because He has already torn that down once and for all. In Christ, we stand assured. Oh He is faithful. Faithful.

Father, we thank you for your work in our lives. We thank you for your death and resurrection. We thank you for offering yourself. Your very self – for us. We lay our hearts before You, praising You. Asking you to keep working on us. To keep us firm in the knowledge of your continual work in our lives. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
Discussion questions:
What expressions of grief have you seen or experienced that were helpful in the mourning?
What Old Testament stories do you remember about the temple?
What has God opened your heart to over time and what do you think He is asking you to open your heart to currently?

Our friend Ulysses and desperation

Day Two – Our friend Ulysses and desperation

There is this song on Christian radio that I am just not a fan of. I tried. I really did. I tend to be pretty flexible about types of music. I don’t have really critical opinions about lyrics. I try to put the best perspective on each artist’s work. But every time this song came on, it grated on my nerves so much, that I had to turn the station.
It sounds harsh and critical, so I’m not even going to tell you the song, but the chorus repeats over and over again, “I’m overwhelmed…I’m overwhelmed by You.”
I turned to Dave during a Saturday afternoon drive and said, “I figured it out. I don’t want to be overwhelmed. That song may work for some people, but life already feels pretty overwhelming to me most days, and I don’t want to be overwhelmed by anything or anyone else. And I’m not sure that’s even a good character description of God.” 

Dave, who had limited previous interest in my struggle with the song fully supported my contemplations, as a good and caring husband, with a “Hmmmm…that’s good you figured it out. So, about that hockey game…” 😉
You may feel like Dave, a little disinterested in Heidi’s rant about a random song, but I think Solomon might cozy up to the table for a cup of coffee and a contemplative discussion. He tells us in Ecclesiastes 2:20-23:
“So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.”
Solomon was clearly overwhelmed. He tells us his “heart despaired over all the toil.” The toil of life can get to us, it’s completely normal and in the coming days we’ll talk about how it is often “seasonal.”
But to some degree, the struggle and the toil of life just is. It always will be. It will not go away. We can let the anxiety build and become overwhelmed. We can experience depression and we certainly need to seek help in lifting us from the darkness, but I don’t believe Solomon was dealing with clinical chemical imbalance depression.
Solomon was dealing with realization. He discovered that life is struggle. Period. And that is overwhelming. 

Many of us can relate. As we become adults, we begin to feel the often-crushing weight of life and it’s burdens. We have all joy in Christ, and still wonder how in the world we missed how difficult it all was the first 21 years of our life.
Luther’s take on this was so interesting to me and so exceptionally put, that I had to share it:
“Consider the labors of Hercules, the monsters whom Ulysses and others had to overcome, the bear, the lion, and the Goliath with whom David had to contend. Any who are ignorant of this art will eventually grow weary.”
You see, when we are ignorant of the struggle of life, we collapse when we are faced with it. And often times the struggle is a daily realization. 

Children die, captive to poverty and malnutrition, slavery is still alive and well in our world, miscarriages and cancer steal loved ones from us. The struggle is real, even on good and wonderful mountaintop days. We are left realizing that the grass does in fact wither and flowers do in fact fade, life itself is a chasing after the wind where no legacy we strive for or ambition we attempt is enough to leave a true mark.
But again, with God, our perspective changes. The struggle isn’t less, but we can sit in it, live it, watch it swirl around us and not be overwhelmed. The struggle is where we can share the message and see His grace and mercy and salvation. We can live life and live it to the full, not weighed down but lifted up in Him.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9
 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10
Thank you, Father! Thank you for struggle and mercy and daily provision. Thank you for Your gentle love and Your perfect justice. To You, O Lord, we lift up our days, our families, and our work. Tend to us with Your care and help us to shine You in all we do. In Jesus precious name, Amen.


Discussion questions:
When in your life did you first become aware that there were struggles?
When you were young what person or people helped you to process the difficult things in the world around you? 
Can you think of any moments that you were able to help someone else through a struggle (large or small!)?

Heart verse:
I perceived that what God does endures forever
                                                               Ecclesiastes 3:14a