Grace, Truth and Difficult People

This time I could not miss the opportunity to share Mark McIntyre’s excellent blog on Grace, Truth and Difficult People.

Anyone who has read even part of Hold the Faith will have noticed that difficult people abounded then, as they do  now. I would hope I have portrayed them handling those difficult people in the way Mark outlines below.

Over to Mark…

It may not be a universal experience, but most of us are forced to interact with a difficult person in either our personal or professional life.

There are a variety of sources for the difficulty.

Dealing with difficult people

  • Some are difficult because they don’t perceive feedback about how they impact others. This is the person who continues the story when all the people in the room give indication of being bored or hostile. This is the guy who thinks he’s doing well in the presentation when all the attendees are checking their smart phones, chatting or sleeping.
  • Some are difficult because they are so worried about offending others that they are amorphous, it is hard to discern the real person inside them. These are so tuned in to feedback that they often overreact to it. They are hard to interact with because anything you say might prove overwhelming to them.
  • Some are difficult because they are self-absorbed; it is indeed all about them. The self-absorbed take every difficulty that arises as a personal attack. If a friend is distracted for an unrelated reason, the self-absorbed will take that as evidence of rejection. The self-absorbed will latch on to any sympathetic ear and fill it with a catalogue of injustices done to him.
  • Some are difficult because they are unabashedly selfish. These are similar to the self-absorbed, but this self-absorption is intentional. These will do whatever they think they can get away with to get what they want.

I’m sure there are other categories of difficult people but these four come immediately to mind.

Jesus tells in Matthew 5:44 that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. John 13:35 tells us that love is to be the mark that identifies us as Christians. In Ephesians 4:15, Paul tells us we are to speak the truth in love.

Nowhere in my Bible does it give me any indication that this is easy to do, nor does it give any indication that love is optional. I am called to love difficult people, people who often do not want, or struggle to receive that love.

Grace and Truth, inseperableHow do we go about this then? I think that the evangelist gives us a clue when he describes Jesus as “full of grace and truth” in John 1:14. In his dealings with mankind, the difficult and the loving, Jesus was both gracious and truthful. He always told the truth but the truth was softened with grace and acceptance.

In our imperfection and based on our personality, we will tend to err on one side or the other. Some of you are more likely to err on the side of truth. “He had it coming to him” may be your motto after imparting a dose of truth to someone who you thought desperately needed it. Others, like me, will try to avoid the difficulty, erring on the side of grace.

Grace without truth leaves the difficult person in his difficulty with no-one to guide him out. Truth without grace often makes the truth-giver feel a little bit better but the lack of grace can impede reception of the truth.

The two combined, grace AND truth, as we see it modelled by Jesus can be used by God to positively impact the difficult person. We love best when it is done with both grace and truth.

Thank you Mark.

Hopefully, this thoughtful post will make us all examine ourselves and see if we are handling the difficult people in our lives with grace and truth.

He is patient

 

Mark’s original article can be found here…

Grace, Truth and Difficult People

Shalom

Susan

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Hold the Faith…

newsflash

January, 92 AD

An unnamed source claimed to have witnessed an assault by the apostle John’s great-grandson, Benjamin, on two young guests at a Jewish wedding three days ago.


This reporter was able to talk with one of the two young men earlier today. Thomas ben Jonas, son of a wealthy importer of fine linen stated that he had indeed been attacked by the young man in question.
Thomas ben Jonas clearly does not like the man he accuses of attacking him and his friend Asaph ben Hadad. He said they had all attended the rabbi’s school and Benjamin, son of the oil seller, and great-grandson of the dissident John, had bloodied Asaph’s nose in an unprovoked attack when they were young men.
The young man’s father came on the scene, called his son away, and refused to comment on the matter.
The accused young man was not available to speak to the reporter so his father, Samuel the oil seller, was contacted and stated decisively that there was no truth in the accusation. His son had gone to the farm where the wedding was held and done his work.
The oil seller’s assistant called him away.
Clearly something happened on the last night of the wedding. Something that could bode ill for the group calling themselves the ‘fellowship of the Way’.

Dateline – Ephesus, 92 AD

Parchment

Off topic or relevant?

The average reader might be wondering what the posts in the last few weeks have to do with Hold the Faith, the novel.

Understandable.

So I will explain, before giving a ‘heads up’ on what is coming in the next series.

humility-395x363Humility, Meekness and Patience by JW Ritenbaugh was relevant to Hold the Faith because it was the aim of the Apostle John to promote unity in the church. Unity cannot be achieved without humility… being able to see where you are wrong, take correction, not to mention patience – with yourself and with others as they too work to grow in His image.

There were times when it must have been an uphill battle for our early Christian ancestors. Already ‘ravening wolves’ had been attacking the flock, some brethren jockeyed for position and prestige, not realising that the best way to ‘rise’ is to serve. When Jesus washed the apostles’ feet He was doing the lowliest job of the time. Remember Peter protested vehemently.

What Christ was doing, was showing what He expected of His followers. I challenge you to find a place in the Bible where He behaves as though He is proud of His position as Son of God. He left a powerful non-verbal instruction of quite the opposite… humility.

bibles

Whither the Holy Spirit by Richard T Ritenbaugh addresses an issue that many might not even be aware of… is the Holy Spirit a person, or is it the Spirit of God and Christ?

This post is not meant to change anyone’s thinking, just clarify matters for those who do wonder and ask the question.

It clearly was not a problem for the early Christian writers since they never included a greeting from the Holy Spirit. This then is the culture and setting for the novel, Hold the Faith.

Give God Your Best by Jon Lilley was included as a link because, as the writer says… God gave us His Best!

Give God your best

Even our best is not much in comparison, but if we cultivate humility, teachablity, and patience with others we might show that we are attempting to walk in Christ’s steps.

Manly meditations  by Scott Johnson – series of thoughts, observations and scriptures.

Before cities full of high rise buildings, constant flashing lights and noise people had time to look around them, look at the sky, the flowers, trees … in other words – see God’s creation. The apostle John and the brethren of that time walked as they travelled around. They had time to think, reflect and praise God.

Then we come to the recent mini-series…

Paul, the Law and the Operations Manual by David Grabbe.

operating manual

History shows that until the Nicene Council many of the churches were keeping the Sabbath and the Holy Days. I don’t need to say more because David explained it so clearly.

These too had a relevance to Hold the Faith. Because many believe the apostle Paul was anti-law, it was an issue I had to address because the novel is set in the early 90s AD. By then the apostle Paul  had been martyred. The apostle John and the people in the fellowship of the Way, are shown keeping the Sabbaths, Holy Days and dietary laws.  So, having heard David’s excellent message I asked permission to use it. (As I did with the other posts I requested to use.)

Hopefully, I have shown you that the recent posts all had relevance to the novel that this blog is about.

Coming next – a series of ‘news’ articles about the people and events in Hold the Faith, the novel.

Shalom

Susan

Paul, the law and the operations manual – part 3

Concluding the short series, David will make strong comparisons with the ‘hotel’, the ’employee’ and our walk with God.

What the Galatians were struggling with would be similar to a hotel employee expecting the owner to give him a Partnership in dictionarypartnership on the grounds that he fulfilled the employee contract. The first problem with that expectation is that it is impossible that the employee followed the operations manual perfectly, which means he was in breach of contract. The second problem is that the employee contract nowhere offers a partnership. It simply is not part of the agreement.

Likewise… the Old Covenant never included things like justification, or true forgiveness, or salvation.

God promised many physical blessings, but there were limits to that agreement.

Hebrews 8:7-8, 10 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—…For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

The fault in the covenant was not with God’s law, but with “them.” The problem was with their faith—with their trust—in the God they made the agreement with. Hebrews 3 calls it “unbelief.”

Going back to our example

  • If the employees don’t trust the owner, they are not going to follow the pattern he set down for them, and the hospitality will suffer.
  • If God’s people do not trust Him, they are not going to heed His instructions, and everyone will suffer. The instructions are not the problem. The lack of trust is the problem, and it manifests itself in disobedience.

Notice that God’s laws do not disappear in the New Covenant.

Instead, He promises to put His laws in our mind, and write them on our hearts.

The law cannot save anybody, but it does prepare us to live the way God lives. The law goes from being simply a checklist to becoming the core of how we live. As it is written on our hearts, people around us begin to catch a glimpse of the superior Intelligence behind this standard of conduct—this law of love. They may not be inclined to follow suit, but they will recognize the positive fruit.

checklistIn our example, a rebellious employee might say, “If the operations manual can’t give me that partnership, then I don’t see the point in following it.” Or he might say, “I’m not real big on rules and procedures; this is who I am, and the owner is just going to have to accept it.” Likewise, the carnal mind in Romans 8:7 might say, “The law cannot save me, so I don’t see the point. I’m just going to be a good person, and love everybody, and that is better than the law.” Or it might say, “Nobody can keep the law perfectly, so I’m not going to do any more than I am already doing. God is merciful, and He is just going to have to take me as I am.”

The purpose of the law is not to save, but to guide and to prepare. Under the New Covenant, the application of the law is not exactly the same, just like the operations manual for a beachside hotel in Florida is going to be somewhat different from a ski resort in Alaska. But the principles of hospitality do not change. For parts of the law, there is not a literal application, because we no longer have a physical priesthood, or tabernacle, or animal sacrifices. And yet because they are part of the pattern given by the Creator God, we can still glean foundational principles for the best way to live.

Law in heartInstead of being tossed out, the law is being made personal and permanent within us. The New Covenant addresses the problem of sin by getting to its source, and that is the heart—the heart is replaced through the relationship with the Creator that the New Agreement makes available. The Old Agreement is obsolete for us, but under the New Agreement we begin to understand the eternal principles of conduct, and they prepare us to live as God lives.

In my opinion David has presented the clearest – and simplest, explanation of what seems like contradictions in the writings of the Apostle Paul. It has been my pleasure to present his message for your thoughtful consideration.

Shalom

Susan

Paul, the law and the operations manual 2

Last time we left, David was  beginning to draw the picture for us, operating manualcomparing the thought and care that had gone into an operations manual for a hotel, with the ‘operations manual’ for Christians.

The Bible is God’s operation manual

It ensures that His children grow in His image.

Refreshing…

“Just as the guests of the hotel were highly impressed by the result of the operations manual, so also Moses knew that the nations would be in awe of the wisdom behind God’s law, and what it would produce in His people.”

Remember the owner worked it all out in advance.

Do we think less of the great God of the universe?

Do we seriously believe that  He would try something and when it didn’t work, move to a backup plan?

How insulting!

David continues…

“Now with that in mind, let’s turn back to Galatians 3.

One of the reasons Galatians is easily misunderstood is because Paul uses the word “law” in so many different ways. Usually when we hear the word “law,” we think of a standard of conduct, like the 10 Commandments. Yet in Galatians, very often Paul is not referring to God’s standard of righteous conduct, but rather the agreement between God and Israel. There is an important distinction.

contract1In the example of the hotel, each employee would have signed an agreement, or a contract, spelling out what the employee’s obligations are, and what the hotel will do for the employee. Most likely that agreement would have included that the employee would follow the operations manual.

For Israel, their part of the covenant was to obey everything that God said.

In Galatians 3: 19, when Paul asks what purpose the law served, he is actually talking about the covenant. We know he is talking about the covenant because the last part of the verse says that it was “appointed (or arranged) through the hand of a mediator.”

If God gives a law, there is no need for a mediator, because the matter it is not open for discussion with the people.  A mediator is only necessary when two parties have to agree to something. This shows that he is talking about the covenant, the agreement, rather than the laws Israel agreed to keep.

So the covenant with Israel was added to the promises made to Abraham, and it was added because of transgression—because of sin. We have to remember that there were some 4 centuries in between the promises to Abraham and God’s redemption of Israel. Even though Abraham kept God’s commandments, statutes, and laws (Genesis 26:5) by the time we get to the Exodus, Abraham’s descendants had forgotten all about the right standard of conduct. They did not have any idea of the best way to live. So God arranged a covenant as a way to teach Israel how to live, and to prepare her for her Messiah.

Going back to the hotel example, if somebody comes in and asks for a job, the hotel manager knows that this person may not have a clue about the hospitality industry. But because the manager has seen how well the owner’s system works, he trusts that if the prospective employee will be faithful to the employee contract, and follow the operations manual, he too can contribute to the positive experience of the guests.

The operations manual is the means by which an employee learns the best way to do things.

The issue Paul is addressing in Galatians is not the law of God, which existed long before the covenant. The problem was that even though the Galatians had received the Holy Spirit, they were being influenced by Judaizers into believing that they could be made right with God on the basis of their own works, rather than on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul was not anti-law at all, but he certainly was against the notion that we can recommend ourselves to God on the basis of our obedience. Likewise, there is no problem in striving to obey the law, which Paul says in another place is “holy and just and good.” (Romans 7:12) The problem is in thinking so highly of ourselves and our own works that Jesus Christ’s life, death, and ongoing work as High Priest become overshadowed.”

Thank you David… that is certainly both a stern warning, warning2

 and a point we need seriously to meditate upon.

David’s message will conclude next time.

Till then

Shalom

Susan

Paul, the law, and the operations manual – 1

Anyone who has read even part of Hold the Faith, the novel, will have seen that  the Apostle John, his family, and the brethren kept the law. The book starts in 92 AD, which is well after the death of the apostle Paul.

Ancient writing implements
Reed pens and parchment

·

Paul’s writings are confusing to many, contradictory to some, anti-law to others, yet careful studying and comparing all his writings demonstrate that Paul was NOT anti-law at all.

The best explanation I have heard is the one that I am ‘serializing’ here, by David Grabbe.

He starts in Galatians 3 which contains a number of verses that seem to suggest that as long as we have accepted Jesus Christ, we have no need to be concerned about the law of God.

Over to David…

Galatians 3:19 is one of those verses. It says,

What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made;

This makes it seem as if God’s law was only for a limited duration, and now that Jesus Christ has come, the law is no longer relevant. Before getting into what Paul is saying here, we are going to consider a hypothetical scenario. This example is not one I thought up, but it is an adaptation of a true account I’ve read.

Imagine…

You are on a trip, and have been driving all day. The sun is setting, you are worn out from sitting for mile after mile, and you decide to find a hotel to stay for the night. You see one advertised that seems like it will suffice, and pull off the exit to find it.

As you walk in the doors, you immediately know that you are in an exceptional place. TheStone Fireplace lobby is warmly lit, and redwood paneling reflects the red glow of the light onto beige, overstuffed couches. A long, dark wood table faces the front door, and on it rests a huge woven basket, overflowing with fresh fruit. Beside the basket is a massive bronze lamp, its burnished light bouncing off the fruit and giving a festive look to the room.  Against the far wall, in a massive stone fireplace, a roaring fire fills the room with the cheerful crackling of its burning logs. Everything about this entrance invites you in and welcomes you.

Behind the reception desk a woman appears, dressed in a freshly starched blouse and a deep red skirt that matches the coloring of the walls. A pin with the logo of the hotel atop a deep red ribbon decorates her blouse like a badge of honor, and a matching ribbon holds her hair back from her bright face. She smiles warmly and greets you, and in less than three minutes the bellboy has ushered you into your room, even though you did not have a reservation. The operation is smooth and efficient, and a delight to experience… and continues through dinner and the preparation of the hotel bedroom.

Having been so impressed with the attention to detail, the next morning you ask to see the manager to find out how he runs such an outstanding establishment.

You are shown to his office, and you tell him how impressed you are with the service you have received, and ask him how he makes it all work. He says, “What we do here is simple—anyone can do it.” He reaches behind his desk and pulls out a binder. He says, “This is our Operations Manual. It is simply a series of checklists. Each checklist itemizes the specific steps each person must take to do his or her job.

He continues: “There’s a system for everything we do here. The fact is, the owner worked it all out in advance. The whole thing was put together in a way the owner believed would make a positive impression on our guests.”

This example was based on an actual experience that one man had at a hotel..

When we read between the lines, we can see that the ideal guest experience was

  • Defined ahead of time by the owner,
  • Translated into specific actions for the employees to follow.

The operations manual was the product of the vision and intellect of the owner.

The owner was a man who clearly understood the hospitality industry, and the operations manual was the pattern that described how he himself would fulfill each specific role in order to produce the best experience for his guests.

Given that we started out talking about God’s law, you’ve probably already made the connection between God’s law and the operations manual.

The law of God…

… gives a standard of conduct in order to produce a specific result in His people. OpenBible12_thumbGod’s law is a product of His unmatchable intellect, and it provides a pattern that will yield predictable, positive results when it is followed.

We can see this back in Deuteronomy 4:5-6:

“Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’

Just as the guests of the hotel were highly impressed by the result of the operations manual, so also Moses knew that the nations would be in awe of the wisdom behind God’s law, and what it would produce in His people.

David’s interesting message will continue in the next post. He presents his thoughts simply, as he draws conclusions.

Till next time

Shalom

Susan

Talking to Kathleen Morris

Today I talk with author Kathleen Morris, a writer of historical suspense

Kathleen Morris, author
Kathleen Morris

When did you start writing?

I started writing probably about fifteen years ago when my youngest was three. I wrote for a small town newspaper as a correspondent. I didn’t make much money but I loved it. Then I just found myself writing more and more. I began to write plays and some of them were performed in my church. One of my plays titled Gotta Love It won Saskatchewan’s Rural Writing contest and was performed by The Dancing Sky Theatre in Meacham, Saskatchewan. It was thrilling to have a professional theatre troupe perform my work. I guess it all spiralled from there. My family and I moved to an acreage as the kids started getting older and I decided to try my hand at writing a book. That’s when Deep Bay Vengeance was born. It took me a couple years but I did it. And then it’s sequel was born: Deep Bay Relic.

You talk about your books like they are your children. Why is that?

Yes! I like to refer to them as my children. Every word, every sentence, every chapter was uniquely crafted together just like when you’re expecting a baby. It takes a lot of work to grow a baby. Nine months of watching your stomach grow. It took me a lot longer to grow my books but little by little I watched it get bigger and bigger until it became a real story. And the characters in it grew as well. One by one they were born. Writing is a deep personal thing really. So much of myself comes though without me even realizing it. Bit by bit the books takes on a personality of their own until one day, labour starts and a newborn story is born. My story, by characters, my baby. They hold a special place in my heart. That’s kind of strange I know. People call me crazy. That’s okay, I kind of am. You have to be if you want to write. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Why do you write Christian fiction?

I settled on writing Christian fiction because my faith is important to me. I want everyone to know God. I’ve been through a lot of hard things in my life and without God, I wouldn’t have made it. I really believe that and I want other people to have that as well. So, I write Biblical truths into my character’s lives and God’s love into every story I write.

What process of writing do you use?

Well, I’m a non-traditional writer. I don’t like to pre-plan anything. I don’t have charts and notes or anything like that. I sit down and place my fingers on the keyboard and start to type. I’ve talked to other writers who can’t understand my technique but that’s okay. Every writer is different. I guess for me, I just love a good surprise. I like not knowing what is around the corner or who will get into trouble next. The best way to describe the way I write is, writing by the seat of my pants. Usually I shock myself by writing a character off that I didn’t expect to. I’ve cried my heart out over the death of a character I didn’t intend to kill off. It’s crazy I know, but that’s part of the thrill of writing for me. I’m just as surprised as my readers when something bad happens. I like that!

What do you think makes a good story?

I think a good story should have a little bit of everything. Though I like to write suspense/thrillers it wouldn’t be a good book if it didn’t have romance mixed with it. My characters also have to go through a moral struggle and come out learning a lesson. That is a must. And when I write, I like to leave a person hanging with something suspenseful. Each page, each chapter, has to grab me, and ultimately has to grab the reader. If it doesn’t, I’m bored and I just don’t read it. I think my readers feel the same way and so that is why I deliver that to them.

What style of writing do you like best?

I like to write in the third person. First person bothers me. I guess because it doesn’t sound real to me. I have to read and write realistically. I have a problem with fantasy. My kids make fun of me because I don’t like fairy tales but that’s just me. I’ve always been like that and I guess I always will be. It has to be realistic! I also like to get inside the heads of each of my characters and throughout the book I give each character a chance to tell the story through their eyes.

Are you working on your next book?

Why yes, I am. It won’t be a third book in my Deep Bay Series though. That series is perfect with just two books. My next series is called The Blood War Trilogy. I don’t want to reveal too much about it. Not even the title, but what I do want to say is that it will surprise everyone. By that I mean, my topic is a bit wild for the Christian genre but God is still in it. My characters will go through a great deal of pain and suffering in this one, but thBook by Kathleen Morris, Short end of the Stickeir transformation will be unique. Be prepared for an apocalyptic thriller with an amazing twist of fate. For the time being you can enjoy my new book of short inspirational stories that went live via Smashwords Dec 3, 2012. It’s called Size Seven Shorts. Self explanitory. Seven short pieces that will change your life. Book 2 in the series is out as well and it’s called Short End Of The Stick.

Thank you Kathleen,

Shalom

Susan

To see more of Kathleen’s book titles…

Short End Of The Stick –

Smashwords:https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/274435

Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/Kathleen-Morris/e/B0099WZSDY/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Time Will Tell – An Easter Play: Smashwords:https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/270201

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Time-Will-Tell-Easter-ebook/dp/B00AVDZ2IQ/ref=la_B0099WZSDY_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1357185134&sr=1-4

SIZE SEVEN SHORTS:

Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Size-Seven-Shorts/book-h-OxFpmxfEiCheNoF6o36Q/page1.html

Smashwords : https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/261677

DEEP BAY VENGEANCE (BOOK ONE) :

Barnes & Noble : http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/deep-bay-vengeance-kathleen-morris/1113047331

Kobo : http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Deep-Bay-Vengeance/book-ef-uOPiV606fW6W1O6N1Aw/page1.html

Sony : https://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/kathleen-morris/deep-bay-vengeance/_/R-400000000000000805360

Apple : https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/deep-bay-vengeance/id556042108?mt=11

Amazon : http://www.amazon.com/Deep-Bay-Vengeance-ebook/dp/B0099DS0NI

Diesel : http://www.diesel-ebooks.com/item/SW00000216343/Morris-Kathleen-Deep-Bay-Vengeance/1.html

Smashwords : http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/216343

DEEP BAY RELIC (BOOK TWO) :

Barnes & Noble : http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/deep-bay-relic-kathleen-morris/1113047330?ean=2940044812420

Kobo : http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Deep-Bay-Relic/book-E5K7t36S_0iBdySJW3wE6w/page1.html

Sony : https://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/kathleen-morris/deep-bay-relic/_/R-400000000000000795052

Apple : https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/deep-bay-relic/id556043183?mt=11

Amazon : http://www.amazon.com/Deep-Bay-Relic-ebook/dp/B0099E2DZI

Diesel : http://www.diesel-ebooks.com/item/SW00000216350/Morris-Kathleen-Deep-Bay-Relic/1.html

Smashwords : http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/216350