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.

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.

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!

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.

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!

You Want Milk, Not Solid Food…

I have to admit to you that I love ice cold milk and still drink three 8-ounce glasses a day.  According to my Mom, my first attempt at a sentence as an infant was, “want bobble (bottle).”  My parents should have known from that point on, their monthly grocery bill was going to be substantially higher! 😊 I really enjoy milk but understand that to grow and develop physically as a man my diet has to change to solid food made up mostly of lean meat, vegetables and whole grains.

The same is true in the spiritual realm.  If we do not move from a diet of spiritual milk to “solid food”, we will not mature and grow as Christ-followers. Hebrew 5:11-14 addresses this, 11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”  

Frustrating to the Hebrew author were believers who were of the flesh and the world without a desire to grow spiritually.  They wanted to be bottle fed milk and comforted, listening to preaching that made them feel good about themselves. To seek understanding and maturity would change their lifestyle, the way they think and their priorities.  Eating “solid food” and growing meant they would have to become obedient to “teaching about righteousness.”  God wants Christ-followers who live out Jesus with “right-living.” They were satisfied with their lives without a desire to change. “Hey, I am not that bad of guy.” Furthermore, maturity would mean allowing the Holy Spirit to help them “distinguish good from evil.”  Again, this discernment would separate them from the world.  Ouch!  In their minds, that was too much for them.

Trying not to be judgmental but recognizing that I must ask the question.  Do you remain an infant spiritually wanting to be bottle fed by your preacher or teacher?  Year after year, are you playing church nodding your head when you agree and maybe even saying an “amen” here and there; yet, at the end of the day, you have not changed or matured spiritually? Paul the Apostle in Galatians 6:7&8 makes a forceful statement, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  I encourage you to put the bottle away and start eating solid food.  It’s eternally worth it.

Feeling Rejected Ain’t a God Thing!

I hate rejection.  Candidly, my harshest critic is “me, myself and I.”  My former employer, BT (British Telecom), flew me to Brussels along with my national sales team to put us through a grueling three-day self-analysis exercise.  Working through the results with me, one of the instructors simply stated, “I wouldn’t want to be you.”  Uh, not what I wanted to hear.  My personality proved to include two overpowering scores.  One, I have an intensely competitive drive.  Two, I am harshly critical of myself.  My results were placed on a graph showing these two overpowering scores pulling against each other.  Emotionally, I was a wreck living in constant self-rejection believing myself to be a failure. 

My spiritual journey has been cleaning this stuff up in my mind.  Thank God for His wonderful word which divides soul and spirit and reveals the thoughts and intents in the deepest, darkest recesses of my mind (Hebrews 4:12).

John 3:16 is the best known and quoted verse in the Bible, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Yet, the verse following (v. 17) is equally as impressive, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”  There is no condemnation in God but rather a desire to save us from the world, others, devil’s grasp and ourselves.  We are not rejects. 

Let me share several dynamite (don’t forget the Greek word for power is “dumanis”, the origin of our word dynamite) verses:

  • Romans 8:1, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Notice our position in this verse. We “are in Christ Jesus” and God looks at His son and judges us not guilty…no rejection, no shame.
  • 1 Peter 2:9, “But Y-O-U are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  Y-O-U arechosen…royal…holy…God’s special possession.” 
  • Be careful that you do not listen to the devil’s whispers that you are a loser or his loud roar to paralyze you with fear.  John 10:10 shares both our quandary and the solution, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  The devil’s objective is to “steal, kill and destroy” your joy.  At the same time, we are in the presence of Jesus who desires life at its fullest for each of us. 

Don’t fall for the devil’s trap.  He is a liar, “that’s just his nature” (John 8:44).  “Jesus said, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” (John 8:31-32).  Relish whose we are.  We are Jesus’ kids.  Enjoy His abundant life to the fullest and fear not the darkness and rejection of the devil, a liar.

Have You Forgotten How to Count?

One of the joys being around little ones is listening to them learn to count.  It is as cute as it can be hearing them count “1, 2, 3….8,9,10” leaving out “4,5,6,7.”  In their little minds, they got to 10, and we should be proud of them.  What if they miss several numbers along the way…it’s not that big of a deal!  Like these precious little ones many of us as Christ-followers have forgotten how to count. 

Romans 6:5-7 gives us some great news,“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”

  • “we have been united with him in a death like his”
  • our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin”
  • because anyone who has died has been set free from sin”

In the spiritual realm, Christ on the cross did away with our problem…our body ruled by sin (our sin nature).  When He died, we died with Him; therefore, if we died with Him, we have been set free from sin.

Romans 6:8-10 tells us even better news, “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.”

  • “Now, if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him”
  • “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead”
  • “Death no longer has mastery over him”
  • “The death he died, he died to sin once for all…the life he lives, he lives to God.”

He died and we died with Him, “dead to sin once for all.”  And, when Christ was raised from the dead, “the life he lives, he lives to God.”  Guess what?  Likewise, in Him, we have the same resurrected life and power.  Dead with Christ and alive with HIS LIFE! 

As Christ-followers, we have all of the above in our spiritual DNA.  There is one big problem.  Only a few us are C-O-U-N-T-I-N-G this true in our life. Romans 10:11 explains this, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  Our identity is Christ.  What happened to Him has happened to us.  If we don’t in faith C-O-U-N-T ourselves dead to sin and alive to God, we will live in the flesh looking like and behaving like others in our world. 

Have you forgotten how to count?

We Can Grieve or Bring Great Joy to God

Grief is a harsh word meaning deep sorrow or distress especially caused by someone’s death.  My wife (Pam) and I have been around grief the last several years in the loss of her father and my mom.  The loss of a dear relationship produces hurt at the deepest levels of a person’s soul.  Romans 12:15 challenges as God’s people to “weep with those who weep sharing others’ grief.”  Just this past week, Pam held a dear neighbor in her lap who had just discovered that she had lost her young son in an accident 7300 miles away.  Needless to say, she was heartbroken.

Do you know that we can grieve God?  It may be difficult to believe but true.  Paul the Apostle in Ephesians 4:30 straightforwardly declares, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.”  We are able to cause sorrow and deep sadness to our God.  Think about what I just said.  We are able to cause sorrow and deep sadness to our God.

To understand a verse, Bible scholars instruct us to start by looking at the immediate context of the verse meaning what are the verses around it.  So, let’s start by looking at the prior verse, Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  It becomes clear that the way each of us talk to each other has a huge impact on the Holy Spirit of God.  We grieve Him by our words.

  • “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths.”  How we talk to one another is an enormous deal to God.  “Unwholesome talk” from His children grieves Him.
  • Use words that are “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.”  God at the core wants His children speaking in ways that focuses on the edification of one another…”that it may benefit those who listen.”

Now, let’s look at the verses that immediately follow.  Paul speaks very clearly in verse 31 what grieves the Holy Spirit and then in verse 32 what brings joy to Him.  

  • Ephesians 4:31 states, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice (ill intent toward others).”  God is all about relationships; how we treat one another.  We as His children hurt the Holy Spirit when we act with ill intent towards another.
  • Ephesians 4:32 reveals what brings joy to Him, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  Kindness, compassion and forgiveness are a healing ointment to our God and brings great delight to Him.

God is all about relationships especially our spouse and our children what we say and how we act towards each other.  Do you want to bring joy and not grieve God?  Now, you know how.  Hey, it’s not easy.  In fact, it may currently seem impossible, but God will walk with you and guide you every step of the way.  Relationship builders are in the center of His heart bringing Him great joy!