Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Resentment Warehouse

                                                  resentment cat

  James 1:2-3 gives a continuum that most  Christians are familiar with. James tells his audience to count it all joy that they have trials, because the testing of our faith produces patience or steadfastness.  Not automatically though.  He writes that we are to “let steadfastness have its full effect” (ESV) or “let patience have its perfect work” (NKJV).

That saying “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” isn’t always true.  If so, then we would all be mature and complete, lacking in nothing, to use James’ verbiage.  Some people go through hard times and are bitter, self pitying and hard to be around.  Others don’t even need hard times to act like that.  

So when James says to let the trials produce their perfecting work, that word LET tells me that there is something I need to do to not grow bitter but to grow better through the hard knocks.  As I was studying this, the strangest thing happened, no lie.  I fell asleep on the couch and had this vivid dream.  I was arguing with my boss at work, much to my demise.  He told me it was time to quit.  As I tried to speak, the words wouldn’t come out, it was like I was choking out my responses.  I knew I was digging a hole with my every word, but was in too far to recover as I brought up things I held against him, since he was bringing up my disqualifying shortcomings.

I was relieved to wake up, but very shook.  As I processed it, especially with James 1 still open on my lap, this is what I came up with.  I had even written this line in my journal previous to falling asleep “Let God show up and tell you where you need fixed.”  Well, He did.

One of the things that keeps trials from maturing us is bitterness.  It’s easier for me to spot it in others than it is in myself.  Bitterness is like this road block that makes us blame others, blame circumstances, and blame God directly or indirectly.  It causes us to get stuck and stay there.  Have you met people that told you about something like it happened yesterday, and then you find out it was in their childhood years ago?

A twin sibling of bitterness is resentment.  That’s what struck me from my nightmare.  I was bringing out stored up resentments and that’s what caused my smacky attitude that was going to get me fired if I hadn’t woken up.  In Matthew 12:34-35 Jesus instructs, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good person brings out what good treasure has been stored and the evil person out of his treasure brings forth evil.”  

When I get wronged or somebody does something that I think offends me and I don’t use words to work it out and I harbor it, I am keeping those incidents in my resentment storehouse.  Then they come out at bad times, like when I am in a bad mood, or off guard, or when I am under pressure.  It’s what I have stored up.  I have a good memory and I remember those things.  Why don’t I store up all of the good things and they come tumbling out in an argument?  The bad things stored up also come out as sarcasm or as passive aggressive acts.  And we feel justified because of that thing that they did to us three years ago…

One of the ways to avoid storing up wrongs is to talk them out not just keep them inside. Short accounts, like not letting the sun go down on our anger and giving the devil a foothold as Ephesians 4:26 says.  And being consciously forgiving.

Perhaps that’s how I let trials work their maturing effect on me.  I’m not a victim that is entitled to lashing out or to being indulged.  I am a player that needs to be transformed into Christlikeness, by the work of His Spirit in me, the chiseling work of trials and people who are sandpaper, and by the work of Scripture in my life.


Our Times are in God’s hands

In studying the book of James, I am struck right away by James the man.  He was Jesus’ half brother, and apparently didn’t believe in His deity until after the resurrection.  In 1 Corinthians 15:7 we find that Jesus appeared to James after he rose again, not to rub it in his face, but to call him to follow. He took on leadership in the Early Church, as seen in Acts 12:17 when after Peter’s angelic jail break he says “Go tell James.”  James, the brother of John, had just been beheaded by Herod.  James also took on leadership with the Jerusalem counsel in Acts 15.  

So my thoughts have to do with God’s timing in our lives.  There’s this Greek word “Kairos” which has to do with time.  There are two parts to it: chronological or fixed time, (chronos) and the right or opportune moment.

James could have beat himself up about missing getting all he could have from Jesus during the first 33 years or so.  I think of people who become Christians later in life that might think the same thing.  I’ve heard them grieve this, doubting themselves and God.  But God has this time thing in His sovereign hands.

Jerry Bridges writes in his book, Trusting God Even When Life Hurts, that there are three essential truths we must believe about God if we are to trust Him with our lives:

  1. God is completely sovereign (can do what He wants when He wants)
  2. God is infinite in wisdom
  3. God is perfect in love

We must trust God’s timing and perfect work in our lives.  My brother in law always says “If it’s and nuts were candy and nuts, Christmas would be year ’round.”  We have to give God our if’s and but’s.  Acts 17:26-27 says that God establishes our boundaries and our times so that we would seek Him and perhaps find Him.  So He works according to His timetable to bring us to Him and to accomplish a purpose He has in store.

Psalm 31:15 states “My times are in Your hand.”  May we be able to say that with trust in a sovereign God who works the kinks of our lives for specific purposes, just like with James.


Hinderances

Hinderance: “A thing that provides resistance, delay, or obstruction to something or someone.”

In 1 Thessalonians 2:16 Paul stated that people hindered him from speaking to the Gentiles about Jesus that they might be saved. And then, in 2:18, Paul relayed that he wanted to get back to see the Thessalonians, but Satan hindered them.

Do you ever have those dreams where you’re trying to get someplace, but everything and everyone is in the way? You leave the house, only to suddenly realize you’re in your underwear. You try to drive down the road and a tire falls off or you’re driving through quicksand…Paul must have had those dreams a lot.

I usually figure out my hinderances way after the fact, like after something I’ve attempted has bombed.  Or, I get so frustrated with a particular person that is always subverting or annoying that I can’t stand it.  They’re like the one wheel on the shopping cart that goes in the opposite direction.  Can you shopping cart wheelpicture your one wheel?                          

Sometimes those people are very well meaning, like Peter was in Matthew 16:22-23.  Jesus was trying to prepare the disciples for His death and Peter pulled Jesus aside and said “This shall never happen to You!”  Jesus turned and answered, “Get behind me, Satan!  You are a hinderance to Me.  For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”  His own close friend.  Notice Jesus addressed Satan, not Peter.  

Picturing how that would play out took me to 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 where it says that the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world, but are divinely powerful to pull down strongholds and to destroy things that stand in our/God’s way.  Those weapons include prayer, Scripture, fasting, the name of Jesus and perhaps flat out rebuking.  We have authority through Jesus and we need to learn how to use it.  

As I pondered this, I pictured my shopping cart wheel and prayed that God would take care of this hinderance.  I prayed through the things that troubled my spirit about this person to see the rub destroyed.  Since then I have not been so stirred negatively as this person comes to mind as I used to be, in fact not at all.  This is a work of God!

Do you have something or someone standing in your way that needs to get brought before God’s throne of grace?  Are you getting road blocked and prevented from moving ahead and fighting it in your flesh?  How and what can you pray to see this change in Jesus’ name?


Turning From Idols to Serving the Living and True God

1 Thessalonians 1:9 “They report how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”

I recently was at a conference in a popular city.  I went with a colleague who was not coming from the same place spiritually as I am, so her goals were different for the trip.  She was after the night life, the bands, drinking and dancing.  Not my scene.  I went to the downtown with her one night, perhaps not thinking it through well enough.  There was a ten block strip of bars, filled with thousands of people lining the strip in nearly 100 degree heat.

I was not prepared for the overload of my senses.  It included burned out people sitting in bar windows smoking pot, young women scantily clothed tipping back shots using only their mouths (on top of the bar counter), loud bands inviting people in from every direction, and many other sights and sounds that accompany people chasing after the lusts of the flesh.  Some looked happy, but others looked used up and strung out.

I’m happy to be home.  Studying in the book of 1 Thessalonians, I was hit with the same picture.  Here are people worshiping their idols openly.  I don’t know exactly what idol worship looked like in Greece in  50 A.D., but it could have included wild drinking and dancing, chasing after money and the lusts of the flesh–just like now.

This guy Paul arrives and says “there’s a new God in town.”  Boom.  He went to the synagogues first, as was his habit, reasoning with them from the Scriptures and proclaiming Jesus.  Not only did some of the Jews believe, but a great many devout Greeks and “not a few” leading women.  Jesus caught on fast,  and in the middle of persecution, a church was born.  idols

What encourages me as I think of the church at Thessalonica is that God is still in the business of getting a hold of people who look far from Him and those who quietly worship other idols.  He changes hearts and lives and takes the used up and strung out, sexually immoral, hedonistic, money loving and self seeking people to a life of serving the living God.

It has caused me to look at people differently and with a new hope.  It makes me yearn for the same appearing of Jesus in my town and in the lives of people around me.

Jesus still changes lives and still turns people from idols to a relationship with the true and living God!