Do You Argue Often?

I have discovered that few Christians genuinely live in peace.  We have so much going on with constant strife between each other.  Colossians 3:15-16 challenges us to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”  The word, “umpire”, is a derivative of the Greek word, “peace”, found in this verse.  The implication here is that “peace” determines if what we are doing is “safe” or “out”.  God expects us to have a deep-seated peace with Christ “dwelling” in our hearts restfully.  Philippians 4:6&7 commands us “to not be anxious in anything” and to consistently experience “the peace that passes understanding”; however, that is not the norm of today’s world.

James 4:1-2b pictures more accurately the experience of many of us. Verse 1 asks a couple of questions, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” Inner turmoil birthed by selfish desires battling within each of us erupts into fights and quarrels among us.  Verse 2 succinctly gets to the cause and effect in our lives and relationships as ugly as they may be, “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”  We selfishly “desire” and “covet” which destroys our relationships ending up in hurtful, ugly, bitter, painful quarrels and fights.

We try to control others and our environments by attempting to overpower or manipulate each other.  When unsuccessful, we spew out poison.  Let me assure you that not only does this venom injure the adults, it is toxic to precious children inside many of our homes who are within earshot of our arguments.  It is like taking a fist and blasting our kids in the core of their emotions.  Let’s never forget that our kids will have an impression of their parents carried the rest of their lives. You determine what that impression looks like.  Not trying to be scary here but each of us will give an account to Jesus how we have nurtured and loved our kids.

Notice how closely the above verses parallel the first half of John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…”  “The thief” refers to the devil.  We could take this verse and insert it into James 4 above and the behaviors are the same.  Why?  When we operate selfishly, we become an expression of the devil with the end result being ugliness.

Proverbs 16:18 declares bluntly, Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”  Ouch! So true!

Later in chapter 4 of James verses 7&8 are the antidote to the argumentative poison spewed in verses 1-2b above, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.”  These two verses are straightforward and crystal clear.  Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, throw the devil out of your life and keep him out, open up the door of your heart to Jesus and He will come into you with close, sweet, unselfish fellowship leading to the peace that passes all understanding.  Then, you will see a refreshing kindness, patience, goodness and gentleness in your relationships.

Thirst For God

“As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while all day long people say to me, ‘Where is your God?’ I remember this as I pour out my heart: how I walked with many leading the festive procession to the house of God, with joyful and thankful shouts. Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:1-5 When I was still in the military, a friend and believer that I respected was fervent for God. One day I found him weeping, deep in depression because of home situations and other things going on around him. I tried to comfort him, and we prayed together, but he remained depressed. Later however, I witnessed him witnessing to another, praising God, even in his depression. I remember that day, that time in my life when I saw the hand of God working on one, who even though going through a depression, was witnessing for the Lord. I was in awe. For many of us, we will witness on the good days, but when something hits us and causes us to become depressed, we tend to shrink back and not want to be in the presence of anyone else. I must admit, and I have had numerous times when I longed to be with the Lord, even to the point of thirsting for His presence, even if it meant leaving this earth to be with Him. I wonder if others who may have seen this wondered where God was?

The above is an excerpt from a devotional I receive daily. Pastor Andy and I are kindred spirits on several levels. This devotional made me think about when I trust God and, to be honest, when I don’t! It has nothing to do with the Lord … but only to do with me! I do not question if God can do something … He can do ALL things! It comes down to if I will let him use me when the opportunities arise! Unfortunately, I have missed many while wallowing in my own muck! I pray that I/we won’t miss another!

Blessings as we head into this July 4th weekend. Remember why we have the freedoms we do … and Who gives us the ultimate freedom!

Are You Mr. or Ms. Grumpy?

All of us grumble sometimes but some habitually grumble.  Others look at you as Mr. or Ms. Grumpy.  Synonyms of grumble are groan, complain, fuss, gripe, squawk, mutter, moan and bellyache.  It is tough associating with these folks.  Most importantly, God doesn’t enjoy their complaining, griping and bellyaching. Grumbling keeps you from the presence of God losing fellowship with Him. Throughout the history of God’s people, He consistently showed contempt to those who grumbled rather than those who expressed thanksgiving and praise.

James 4:14 states for us to “do all things without grumbling or disputing.”  1 Corinthians 10:10 says for us not to “grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed…”  The Israelites persistently grumbled against God because of unbelief.  They refused to claim the land promised to them through Abraham.  Why? Because of fear.  In their eyes, the current inhabitants were “giants” and too powerful to defeat.  Their spies definitely saw a beautiful land full of “milk and honey”; however, the majority recommendation was to stay put in the wilderness. Everything that God promised was theirs for the taking through faith in Jehovah God; yet, they played it safe processing life through their own capabilities rather than claiming the omnipotence of God. The crazy thing is that in their very own, recent history, God had delivered them miraculously by parting the Red Sea; nevertheless, they stayed put and grumbled. Finally, God got tired of it and disciplined the grumpy Jews.  Numbers 14:26-34 tells us what happened, “26 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: 27 “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. 28 So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say: 29 In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. 30 Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. 31 As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected.’”  Not one of these grumblers made it into the land promised by God!  The two men (Caleb and Joshua) and their families who continually believed and praised God by faith would lead the Israelites (the children of the grumblers) into the Promise Land.  Grumbling keeps you in defeat.

The antonyms of grumble are praise, compliment, thanksgiving, applaud, laud and approve.  These antonyms are words and attitudes that Jesus enjoys professed by His people.  Psalms 22:3 (NASB, in the footnotes) proclaims that God “inhabits the praises” of His people.  ESV states in 22:3 that God “is enthroned on the praises” of His people.  Psalm 110:4 describes the Lord’s appreciation of praise this way, we “enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts (his presence) with praise! 

There’s a choice.  You can stay where you are, grumbling and complaining, “The giants in my life are just too big.”  Hey, how would you like living around you?  Or, you can choose to operate by faith believing that your personal mountains will be moved (Mark 11:22-24) and live in victory confessing that Jesus is Lord of your life.  Look to God and stop grumbling bringing joy to Him, you, and those around you.

God Makes a Way

This past Friday a member of the upper management at my work really ticked me off.  This person got involved in an incident in which they didn’t have all the information and chastised me in an email and cc’d others making it public.

I held back and asked politely to please consider coming to me and talking about it before publicly commenting and correcting me.  They came back with their reasoning which I answered and they wrote back again and I wondered why they didn’t just pick up the phone and talk to me.  I was going to if they wrote again.  I prayed and asked God to help me in this situation.  I was so frustrated and angry.

Then they sent me a text saying that an appointment had cancelled and they wanted to talk.  I immediately called and we resolved the issue.

I was so thankful that God cancelled their appointment.  Made a way for us to resolve the issue.  I understood why they emailed, they were trying to resolve it but were waiting for an appointment so couldn’t get involved in a conversation.

I was reminded about my devotional that morning in Ephesians 4: 1-1-3.

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

As we serve we are to be humble, gentle, patient.  We are to bear with one another in love, and make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

God made a way for us to resolve this by cancelling this person’s appointment.  I needed to be patient, and trust God to make a way for reconciliation. To bear with this person lovingly.  And keep the unity between us with the help of the Holy Spirit (I was not able to myself, in the natural),  and have a “bond” of peace with that person.

Whew! Not easy! But we are to: “live a life worthy of the calling we have received”.  God calls us to this seemingly impossible life practice.  But he gives us the Spirit to help us do this.  To maintain, to keep, the unity through the bond of peace.

 

 

 

Show No Favoritism

If you want to be treated with kid gloves, don’t reach out to James the brother of Christ for counsel.  He has no problem speaking truth assertively.  In James 2:1 he speaks clearly, “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.”  James makes it crystal clear that we should not behave with preferences based on the system of the world. Notice that James points us to “whose” we are, “believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.”  We are children of the Lord Jesus Christ.  As we live out the character of Jesus, all earthly distinctions disappear in the light of His presence.

James references this in verses in 2:2-4 how we treat the rich and the folks who flaunt their worldly stature versus how we treat the less fortunate and the poorly dressed.  Verse 4 nails it, “Have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” Positioned in the light of glory of Jesus, how can we discriminate and make judgments?  Jesus in Matthew 7 admonishes us, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  In verses 6-8, James states that we glorify the very folks who often “exploit” us… “Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?”

James brings clarity to us in verses 5&6, Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor.”  Jesus began His very first public sermon in Matthew 5 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Be careful!  Jesus disdains “favoritism.”  I believe each of us should take a rigorous personal inventory starting within our family, our church, our friends, other relationships, our communities and our world.  Are we discriminating and making judgments that don’t glorify our Lord Jesus Christ?  Do we continue to live out lives based on our background with its discriminating preferences? What changes does God want within me? I challenge each of us to burst our model of comfort and convenience and flesh out the sacrificial love of our Savior in real terms. 

Is Jesus at Home in Your Heart?

People don’t understand that Jesus wants to be at home in their heart…really!  For a few minutes meditate quietly on these verses.  “Be still and know that I am God,” (Isaiah 26:3).  He wants to know you and for you to know Him.  “Here I am standing at the door of your heart knocking. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and sup with you and you with me” (Revelations 3:20).  What an amazing request from our God.  He wants to know you and be known by you.  “Supping” is intimate, familial conversation.  “Keep on asking and I will answer. Keep on seeking and I will be found.  Keep on knocking and I will open the door” (Matthew 7:7).  Hint, hint…God wants to spend time with you.  “If you walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus will cleanse you from all your sin” (1 John 1:7).  Slow down and respectfully hang out with Jesus. 

The problem is we are in a hurry, always busy losing our focus on the world, and pursuing stuff getting get caught up with our lust for things and pleasure.  I love you enough to tell you to “S-T-O-P  I-T  A-N-D  G-E-T  F-O-C-U-S-E-D!”  Get out of 1 John 2:16 and start loving Jesus placing Him first in your life.  Oh, by the way, 1 John 2:16 is pretty blunt, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”  The stuff we get caught up in is temporary.  The ones of us who focus on God, those things last forever.

Paul the Apostle prayed for the Ephesians in 3:16&17, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”  If you will allow the Holy Spirit in your inner man to strengthen you, Jesus will “dwell” within your heart through faith.  If you will interact with the Holy Spirit, He becomes the change agent.  He will prepare your inner man to allow Jesus to feel at home.  In the Greek language, “dwell” is most appropriately translated this way, Christ will be able “to settle down and be at home.”  Where will he be able to settle down?  I-N  Y-O-U-R  H-E-A-R-T!!

He’s at your heart door knocking.  It is time for you to open up your heart and make your God feel at home.  The Holy Spirit will help you to get your house in order!

Oops I Did It Again

There it happened again! A slip of the tongue, something said that cannot be taken back. Have you ever been there? Perhaps this is you even now, but we cannot say we were not warned. We know that the old saying, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is another lie to get us to say things we regret later. James tells it this way: “If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself. Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:26-27 Sometimes it’s so subtle that you do not think you are saying anything wrong, but what you have said, is indeed offensive to another. The world is having a field day with this. It seems like everything said now is offensive to someone, and they are quick to point that out, calling you every kind of name imaginable because of it. Does that mean that we just cannot speak any more? Like that’s going to do a lot of good. But how does one keep from saying things, that as soon as they leave the lips, are remorseful of speaking them to begin with? James goes on to say: “Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment, for we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man who is also able to control his whole body. Now when we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide the whole animal. And consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things.” James 3:1-5 So I realize that I want and I desire to be a mature man, yet it seems like it is my mouth that keeps getting me into trouble, and I realize that I have to control this loose cannon. How many of us have struggled with this same thing. It seems to come from a period of stressfulness, or anger, or another emotion that seeks to control our actions or thoughts. It’s only when we keep our thoughts on Jesus, especially during those times that we are bombarded by outside influences of a worldly and fleshly nature. I take responsibility for that, as I hope you do also. We will never get to the point of maturity unless we can bridle this freely moving instrument of torture and pain. (Taken from a devotional by Pastor Andy)

A Good Cop Teaches Us Authority

I don’t remember the event at the American Airlines Center, but Pam and I found ourselves as pedestrians in the middle of a mob of people trying to cross Victory Avenue safely.  At first, a sluggish cop who obviously disdained the chore of directing traffic made a mess of things.  Power drivers continued to force themselves in the midst of the traffic, horns were blowing, and people were cursing each other.  Tempers were running high.  Shortly afterwards, a very neatly dressed cop marched to the middle of the intersection and took control.  Immediately, he crisply blew his whistle in a very quick, highly decibel shrill, pointed his fingers at the jerk drivers and he authoritatively put a halt sign up, palms out and stopped the traffic in all directions.  Then, he took control of the intersection.  Traffic started moving in an orderly, controlled manner, and pedestrians were able to cross the very busy streets at ease.  Why?  Everyone knew this cop had control of the intersection.

Let’s go back and look at what happened at this very dangerous intersection.  The first cop went to the middle of the intersection lethargically and did not assert the authority that his badge and uniform gave him.  He allowed the intersection to overwhelm him.  Then, the 2nd cop inserted himself in the center of the intersection and most definitely let everyone know that he had the authority to control the intersection.  The look in his eyes made everybody know that you had best not mess with him. Order ensued.

This reflects Christians today.  We have all authority in Jesus Christ; yet, allow the intersections of our lives to becomes messes because of fear, uncertainty, and doubt.  A few of us understand and affirm the authority of the cross, the victory of the shed blood and the power of the resurrection.  These folks march out into the seemingly harmful intersections of their lives victoriously because they know and affirm the authority that Jesus has given them.  Allow me to back up what I am saying by quoting a couple of verses to you:

When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18&19).  Jesus extends His authority “to the very end of the age”.  This resurrected Savior and Lord has given us His authority.  Notice above that some doubted.  Staring them in their faces was Jesus in His resurrected body, and they did not believe.  I could be judgmental, but, how could I?  The Holy Spirit reminds of many of the wonderful things the Lord has shown me, done for me and given me; however, I often remain in unbelief.  We have the choice of declaring Jesus or doubting Jesus as Lord.

Allow me to ask you a question.  Are you living life like the 1st Cop above marching out in the middle of the intersections of life with fear, uncertainty, and doubt?  Or, are you living like the 2nd Cop who affirmed his authority?  Colossian 2:15 states that Jesus “having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”  The authority is ours.  However, it is up to each of us whether we stand and proclaim our victory or live in unbelief and defeat.

Am I Excluding?

As you know unity is a big topic in the bible.  Jesus brings this up in the context of marriage, members of the church, sinners and saved, men and women, us and God and Jesus, humanity in general.  But one of the biggest unity items is the concept of Israelites and Gentiles.  The Chosen People and those outside of this group, all the other geo-political and cultural groupings of people outside of the Hebrews.

In Ephesians 2: 11-22 Paul tears this division down completely.  God’s Chosen People, his handpicked geo-political, cultural people who he has worked with all through the Old Testament are now to be blended with everyone else in the world.  The “circumcision people” are now joined into one family with the “uncircumcised”.

Those who were once “excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners”, who were “without hope” and “without God”, who were “far away” have been “brought near”.

Christ “made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility”.  The purpose of Christ “was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace”.  He came and preached peace “to you who were far away and peace to those who were near”.  And “both have access to the Father by one Spirit”.

Now the gentiles are: “no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and member of God’s household”.

Only Jesus can do this.  Bring total outsiders in to become total insiders.  Foreigners and aliens to become citizens (Phil 3:20,21).  He has brought peace, removing hostility between groups of people who were very different.

Do I as a professed Christian, a follower of Jesus, have this loving inclusivity?  Do I fully realize I am a Gentile who has been grafted into God’s family?  I have asked myself if I have had an exclusive attitude to those different than me.  Inside the church and outside, race, gender, political party, etc?  We certainly don’t have to agree with everyone, but what is our inner relationship perspective with others?

I am so very thankful that God has made a way through his son to no longer be an alien, but now a fellow citizen with God’s people.  With this privilege, I feel I must be thankful and not forget this, nor take it for granted and adopt “insider only” thinking.

A Man of Copper, Not a Man of Steel

At my advanced age, one of my favorite actors is Tom Selleck.  I enjoyed his role playing private investigator Thomas Magnum in the television series Magnum, P.I in the 80’s and currently like his role of Frank Reagan, NYC Police Commissioner in the TV series, Blue Bloods, which has aired since 2010.  If you ever catch me “binge watching”, I am caught up engrossed in his latest series.  His roles portray a man’s man, a man of steel. I recognize if I happened to walk into a restaurant with Mr. Selleck, the ladies would be staring in our direction. Not one of them would be looking at my squatty body! ☹ All of their eyes would be on 6’4’ super handsome Selleck, a man of steel.  

It is amazing how different the Bible pictures a man of God.  Paul the Apostle started out his career as a man of steel.  He single-handedly led the Jewish nation’s attempt to eradicate the Christian Church.  Acts 8:1-3 describes it this way, “a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen (who Paul had stoned) and mourned deeply for him. But (Paul) began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.”  Paul led a trail of terror and tears against the church, a man’s man.

Then, this man of steel and terror met Holy God on the road to Damascus and was knocked to his knees immediately crying out, “Who are you, Lord?”  Instantly, this man of steel recognized that he was no longer lord of his life.  He realized quickly that life would be  lived in submission and surrender to Jesus Christ.  By the way, not too many days before this Damascus road episode, He was in the band of leaders that condemned Jesus to the cross.  Paul hated Jesus.  Now, he would serve him.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul captures what his new life looked like, “But, (the Lord) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  Paul reached out to most of the known world reaching lost people with good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ.  During his ministry, he reveled in his weakness humbly surrendering to the power of God.

The metaphor that I use to describe the life of a man or woman of God is the conductivity of electricity over a very weak, unstable metal, copper.  It is very difficult for electricity to be conducted over steel which is such a strong, stable metal with way too much resistance (ohms).  Yet, electricity has little problem conducted over copper maximizing its power.  Electrical power is “made perfect in weakness.” 

God wants us to be men of copper, not steel.  Delight in your weakness not boasting about your strength.  “For when I am weak, then I am strong” allowing God Almighty to perfect and maximize His strength in and through me.  Become a man of copper not steel!