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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Photo of snowy field in Virginia
A snowy pasture in northern Virginia

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Perhaps you would like to read today's Scripture in context before reading the encouragement message.

"The Blessing Of Rebuke"

"The LORD sent Nathan to David" (2 Samuel 12:1).

You probably know someone named Nathan or Nate. Like Stephen's name in the book of Acts, it's not a common Bible name but rather is used only once (apart from genealogical references). Nathan is the bold prophet who confronted David with his sin.

We don't know how much time transpired between David's cover-up of his sin with Bathsheba and the beginning of chapter 12. Assuming that the cover-up took place shortly after Bathsheba announced she was pregnant it would have been at least six months, perhaps longer. I wonder what David was dealing with during this time. Did he really think he'd gotten away with it?  Had he somehow justified his actions?  Or was he dealing with secret guilt and sorrowful remorse?  We do know that the horrendous sin committed by David recorded in chapter 11 was "evil in the sight of the Lord" (v.27).

Nathan rebukes David"The LORD sent Nathan to David."  What courage it would require for Nathan to complete this God-ordained prophetic mission! David, at the apex of his kingly authority, could easily and quickly do away with such a pesky prophet.  Nevertheless Nathan courageously approached David with an outstanding story analogous to the injustice of David's reprehensible deed.  In an illustrative way he was setting a trap and David walked right into it. Nathan tightened the noose with these words of stunning forthright rebuke, "You are the man!" before launching into a prophetic declaration of judgment concerning David's sin.

The brave rebuke was a redemptive blessing. However uncomfortable, it brought David to his proper senses as he forthrightly confessed, "I have sinned against the LORD."  In receiving Nathan's rebuke and making his honest confession David took the first steps toward his journey to reconciliation with God, though he, his family, and the nation would deal with the spiraling consequences from his ruthless actions the remainder of his life.

The rebuke of the wiseRebuke. I don’t really like that word. I want to encourage, to edify, to lift up. But rebuke can be a blessing and is an integral ingredient in our spiritual growth. We all have needed rebuke at times.  God may even call us to rebuke others.  Nathan was sent by the Lord to David to rebuke him.

I need to keep my personal communications with people I encounter in ministry privileged, especially in this regard, so today's illustrations, although true, are somewhat veiled. I recall the man who was struggling with alcohol and destroying his family but was receptive to my input. I looked him right in the eye and placed a firm hand on each shoulder, "What are you doing destroying your life and those you love in this way?" I sternly asked.  Another was plagued with the stench of internet pornography. We walked along our neighborhood trail to a country church about a mile and ½ away. As we walked I listened, but also preached.

How do you handle needed rebuke?  Do you get angry and harden up your heart or do you see the blessing of rebuke?  I have been blessed by rebuke although at the time it is very uncomfortable and the defenses and excuses rise. Many years ago I was dealing with an issue in my life. A friend pinned me down, figuratively speaking, and spoke truth to my heart. He was right and I am a better man today due to the blessing of his loving rebuke.

What about when God calls us to rebuke another?  The tendency for many, including me, is to avoid this call. But we must obey.  It's part of our calling, especially if we are a minister of the Gospel.  (See 2 Timothy 4:2.)

"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted" (Galatians 6:1)

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Prayer: Father, it comes very naturally to encourage and instruct others in Your teachings.  But it is much more difficult to bring loving correction to one who has chosen to live in disobedience to Your command.  Help me to go forth as one pure in heart, humble in spirit, and earnest in prayer when I am commissioned to be Your messenger of life-giving rebuke. When the messenger is pure in motive and the message is received in the right spirit then correction will take place, just as it did with David and Nathan. Though I cannot be assured of the desired results help me to find blessing in having been obedient to Your Spirit's leading.  In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

Selected Scriptures on rebuke:
"My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline and do not resent his rebuke" (Proverbs 3:11).
"He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise" (Proverbs 15:31).
"Better is open rebuke than hidden love" (Proverbs 27:5).
"He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue" (Proverbs 28:23).
"Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning" (1 Timothy 5:20).
"Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction" (2 Timothy 4:2).
"These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you" (Titus 2:15).
"Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent" (Revelation 3:19).

Brooksyne's Note: When the Scriptures come before me about rebuking another I almost always remember a conversation a Christian brother had with me who was much younger in the Lord and in age as well. Tom is very skilled in working with wood and I had more than once compared his gift of craftsmanship with Stephen's limitations in this area.  Perhaps I had joked about it, but this brother saw through it.  I was his pastor's wife at the time so I know it was not easy to speak his heart on the matter, but he did. Rather than glowing from my flattering compliment, he said, "When you compare me to your husband in an unfavorable way it makes me feel uncomfortable. He is gifted in ways that I am not and I am gifted in ways different than he is." Ouch! Those were not his exact words but I remember the sentiment of his painful but loving rebuke. It sunk in and to this day I don't believe I have ever again made a practice of comparing my husband unfavorably to others.  In fact this morning during my time of prayer I was thanking God for Stephen's handyman ways around the house as he fixes so many things that break down, most recently the water drip in our shower. (More accurately, he's in the process since it's a stubborn drip!)

In my own experience in our pastoral and chaplaincy role God has spoken to me on various occasions to bring about instruction in the form of a loving rebuke.  It's very difficult to do so because I'm always conscious of my own flaws, but when God lays it heavy upon my heart then I pray earnestly, and with fear and trembling, present these messages. Some have been rejected but more often I hear, even years later, that God spoke through me and it brought about significant change in the person's life.  It is very gratifying to be used of God in a way that requires much prayer and forethought, but also brings about positive changes in one's life.

For deeper study - More on the subject of rebuke:
Another perspective from today's text
A Pastor's Perspective by Gordon McDonald
Thoughts on Rebuking by C. Matthew McMahon

Tomorrow I expect to share one more lesson from David's sin with Bathsheba and the consequences. This mini-series began with Tuesday's message "The Consequences Of Sin" and Wednesday's message, Cover-Up

Here's some resource material on this topic I will leave up all week:

2 Samuel 11 and 12 is the account of David's sin with Bathsheba and Nathan's rebuke.

Psalm 51 is the record of his repentance.

"The Consequences Of A Moral Failure"  Webpage  This material is adapted from a 1998 "Leadership" magazine article by Randy Alcorn and Eternal Perspective Ministries and is personalized for my own use and personal impact. This article is also available as a printable .pdf  I encourage every man and woman to adapt this for their own use or better yet start from scratch and develop your own.

"Slow Fade"  Video    Outstanding message about the slide into sin.

Pure Life Ministries  An excellent resource for those overcoming sexual sin.

Last month I took Ester to see "Fireproof", a Christian movie dealing with marital restoration. Our family would highly recommend it!

Fireproof, DVDFireproof, DVD  By Provident Music Distribution
The latest theatrical blockbuster from the creators of Facing the Giants, Fireproof is an action-packed love story about a firefighter, his wife, and a marriage worth rescuing! At work, inside burning buildings, Capt. Caleb Holt (Kirk Cameron) lives by the old firefighter's adage: "Never leave your partner behind". At home, in the cooling embers of his marriage, he lives by his own rules. His job is to rescue others. Now Caleb Holt has to face his toughest job ever, rescuing his wife's heart.

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources
(Click on the link to open and play. In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

Finding a song dealing with today's topic is quite a challenge but here are two selections that blessed us!

"Just As I Am"  
Video  A very touching video presentation with the classic invitation hymn sung by Brian Doerksen with scenes from "The Passion".  Brooksyne and I both were deeply touched in our spirits as we viewed this video and listened to the concecrated voice of Brian Doerkson.

"Song For The Prodigals"  Video

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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