Tag Archives: character

No grumbling

When Jesus saw Zacchaeus, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”  So he hurried and came down and received Jesus joyful.  And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”  Luke 19:5-7

One of the things that catches me as I read through the Gospels is the different responses to Jesus.  Typically they can be boiled down to three base emotions: mad, sad and glad.

  • Mad–In Luke 4:16-30 there is the account of Jesus going back to His hometown just after His baptism.  He picked up the scroll and read the Messianic text from Isaiah 61, and then said: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  In other words, “I’m here.”  By the end of their discourse they get so enraged that they drive him out to the brow of the hill and try to throw him down the cliff.  When we try to talk to some people today about Jesus, they get that mad too.  They might not try to push us over a cliff, but they might threaten us with a lawsuit if we ever pray in public again, ending the prayer “in Jesus’ name.”  Oh, that makes them mad.
  • Sad–In Luke 18:18-24 there is the account of the ‘Rich Young Ruler.’  He came to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life, and Jesus told him one thing that he lacked to be really good, since that was what they young man was going for, was to sell all that he had.  Verse 23 tells us “When he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.”  I have seen many people walk away from Jesus sad because they love other things more than Jesus.  It’s usually men, because it’s women that I work with primarily.  They get involved in relationships that they know aren’t pleasing to Jesus, and they pick that guy over Jesus.  They would rather have a guy by their side, even if he’s not a good guy, than to wait for God’s best.  For others, they pick sports.  A friend’s son got more involved in hockey, so she quit coming to church because hockey tournaments took them away every weekend.  They drifted away from pursuing a relationship with Jesus.
  • Glad–In Luke 19:1-10, we see that Zacchaeus received Jesus joyfully.  He didn’t come up with excuses why Jesus couldn’t come to his house, he gladly welcomed Him in.  And then Zacc repented, telling Jesus how he was going to repay everyone that he defrauded.  What a joy it is to see someone receive the good news of the Gospel with gladness, and to see his or her life turned around by Jesus.

But there is another emotion in the Zacchaeus account that grabbed me today.  It’s in the grumbling.pngverses that are printed above.  Luke 19:7 tells us when they saw that Jesus was going to Zacchaeus’ house they grumbled.  We don’t know who the they’s are, but I can guess.  It’s the people who have resisted Jesus all along–the establishment, the Pharisees, the religious leaders.  I’m sorry it doesn’t rhyme with mad, sad and glad.

They grumbled.  Was it the whine of the self righteous, judgy, I’m so good I don’t need Jesus religious onlookers?  They are onlookers because they will never get involved, but only stand off from a distance and criticize.  Grumbling looks like it wouldn’t be as bad as the guys in Jesus’ hometown that tried to push Him off the cliff, but let’s look at Psalm 78:17-21 to see what God thought about the grumblers in the wilderness:

Yet they sinned still more against Him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert.  They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved.  They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?”

God’s response: Therefore, when the Lord heard, He was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob, His anger rose against Israel.

We might not look at grumbling as rebelling against God, testing God in our hearts, demanding things of Him and speaking against Him, but it is.  And it stirs up His anger, which never is a good idea.

In Matthew 23 Jesus delivered a series of woes to the Pharisees and religious leaders, telling them exactly what He thought about their self righteous ways.  He said they preached but didn’t practice it, and that they shut the kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces.  They wouldn’t enter themselves and they weren’t allowing others to enter either.  They were full of greed and self indulgence, appearing righteous, but inside were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

I want to have the same reaction to people that Jesus has.  And I want to grumble at the things He grumbles at, not the other way around.  The way I get Jesus’ heart is to spend time with Him, lots more of it than I spend on the influence of the world.  It’s too easy to pick up that grumbly, judgy attitude about people and think things like, “They should just get a job,” or, “Who do they think they are?”

There is no end to the wrong attitudes I can have and I can end up being just like the Pharisees.  Jesus said in Matthew 7 to take the log out of your own eye before you take the speck out of your brother’s eye.  That pretty much knocks me out of opening a speck picking business.

The people that grumbled when Jesus went to Zacchaeus’ house had a heart that resisted Jesus.  I don’t want a heart that resists Jesus.  Don’t you think it’s easiest to pick out other people’s faults when you’re trying to avoid your own?  That’s one way to resist Jesus–deflecting to other people’s stuff.

So, no grumbling, speck picking, or resisting Jesus’ work in my heart.  Not today, not ever.


No longer a drama queen

The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.  Isaiah 32:17

 Are you ever around certain people and all they do is stir up drama? And you wonder why it is that there is a trail of divisiveness, arguing, disputes, and intensity wherever that person goes? It takes a lot of energy to have that person in your life, at your family get together, or as a coworker. You might find yourself avoiding him or her, even subconsciously, because you just don’t want to play along.

Isaiah tells us of the opposite–that the effect of righteousness, of God’s righteousness, will be peace, quietness and trust. That is true of a life where God invades, compared to a life that is not surrendered to God. James 3:13-18 gives us that contrast:

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

That’s a mouthful. Hopefully you can see the contrast between the life of righteousness that comes from God, and the life that is characterized by bitterness and selfish ambition, that is full of disorder and every vile practice.  You are gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits and sincere.   And you will plant seeds of peace and righteousness, and hence, get peace and righteousness in return.

That’s such a contrast to those who aren’t ruled by peace.  James 3:15 goes as far as calling those driven by bitter jealousy and selfish ambition demonic.  Call it what it is. Titus 3:10-11 tells us, As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

The best thing that person can do is to stop and to figure out what root sin is driving that drama. Chaos and divisiveness is a characteristic of this. If you see someone whose life is filled with disorder, look for unresolved bitterness.   There are some people whose slogan could be, “There’s always something.” They think it’s funny, but it could be because of jealousy, selfish ambition or bitterness driving them.  If you have the opportunity, help the divisive person see the bitterness that might be driving the drama.

I’ve been thinking about that lately with a co-worker who tends to lean toward being passive aggressive. I’ve thought about telling her the verses from Titus about warning someone once and then twice and then having nothing to do with her, so as to let her know that she can’t keep being divisive. It isn’t okay.

So we can’t call someone a drama queen and just move on. If it isn’t okay to be like that, then we shouldn’t let that person continue to operate like that. Instead of just steering around him or her, taking a stand would be to do what Titus says, to be direct and warn him/her and then to not have anything to do with him/her anymore.

peaceable

Back to the positive side of being ruled by God’s righteousness—the outcome is peace is a quiet spirit, and a harvest of righteousness. That’s so much better. When you walk into someone’s home that this is the prevailing theme, there is order, calmness, and just plain peace. There doesn’t have to be drama or self-advancement—in fact, it is out of place. You want to be around those people, and that’s who you should want to be.

The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.  May it mark your life.  May drama, jealousy, divisiveness, selfish ambition be far from you.

*Image from slideshare.net

 


Spiritual Grit

But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.  Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.  Micah 7:7-8

This is like the Christian version of “Fight Song,” by Rachel Platten. The chorus cries out “This is my fight song, take back my life song…”  I can almost hear it playing in the background as I read today’s verses.  When you feel like you are under attack and you’ve been buried under a load of defeat, this is your fight song.  I will look to the Lord, my God will hear me, when I fall down I will get up again, the Lord will light my darkness…

In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul describes the armor of God that we are to pray over ourselves to stand firm in the day of evil.  One of the pieces of the armor is the shield of faith.  We are to pick up this shield daily and stand on God’s promises.  There are days that I picture myself picking up the shield in my left hand and I quote verses out loud that declare my faith in the God who hears me and will save me.  “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” and “with God all things are possible,” and “by my God I can leap a high wall and bend a bow of bronze.”  That is my fight song.

Commit fighter verses to memory and call them out loud.  Pray them over yourself and others who you know that are struggling.  James 4:7 tells us to Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  2 Corinthians 10:4 declares that we have weapons of warfare that are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. Quoting Scripture out loud is one of those weapons. So is calling on the name of Jesus, prayer and singing praise and worship songs out loud when necessary.

In my position as principal, it is a convenient place for bashers to pop up on Facebook. It is almost always for unfair reasons and truth usually doesn’t have to be told in the posts. It’s kind of like a Jerry Springer show, where drama is daytime entertainment.  I’m not on Facebook for a variety of reasons, but one is that it is too tempting to enter into the fray and war according to the flesh. Instead, I claim Psalm 31:20, In the cover of Your presence You hide them from the plots of men. You store them in Your shelter from the strife of tongues. I also remember Romans 12:21: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

gritMicah called out: “When I fall, I shall rise.”  This is Christian grit.  Researcher Angela Duckworth says on Ted Talks that people who are successful didn’t get to be that way from having family money, or good looks, IQ, or anything else.  She reports that the biggest determining factor is grit.   Grit is resilience, an attitude that will not give up, look back or turn away.  You might not have much bounce left, but with God empowering and equipping you, you can do anything.

Even if your fall was the result of your own stupidity or sin, God forgives. Confess what you’ve done, don’t repeat it and get right back on the horse. Though you sit in the darkness, the Lord will be a light to you.

To quote Dr. Seuss, from Oh, The Places You’ll Go! (1990, Dr. Seuss Enterprises)

“You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.  Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.  A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!

Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?  How much can you lose? How much can you win?  And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…

or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?  Or go around back and sneak in from behind?  Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,  for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.”

There will be dark times and dark places, but never forget that even in them—God will be with you and He will be a light for you. And that is something worth hanging on to.


White Spaces

You shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.  And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know.  Deuteronomy 8:2-3

Have you ever noticed that God isn’t in a hurry?  If I were to create or work out a story of mankind, I don’t think I would include 400 year gaps of time, like where the Israelites stayed in Egypt between Joseph’s death and Moses’ exodus.  Nor would I have another 400 year time of silence where no prophet spoke between Malachi and John the Baptist.  The wilderness wanderings of Moses and the children of Israel might get shortened to maybe five years, and Jesus would have gotten to Bethany before Lazarus before he died, not after.

But I’m not God, and as Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us, our ways are not His ways and they are as white spacefar apart as the Heavens are above the earth.  He works slowly and deliberately for a reason.  Deuteronomy 8 lets us know it is a part of our growth process: to humble us, to let us know what is lacking in our character, to get us to learn to keep God’s commandments, and to cause us to hunger for God and God alone.

In JD Greear’s book Jesus Continued (Zondervan 2014), our women’s Sunday School class is on the chapter of “When You Can’t Feel God.”  He calls the gaps of time that you experience silence from God “white space.”  It’s the space in the Bible between one part of the story to the next.  It’s the space between the call of God and the fulfillment of the dream.  It’s also the white space of singleness; the white space of sickness; the white space of finishing out a prison sentence; the white space of unfulfilled promises and unmet expectations.

A Biblical example would be the time between when David was anointed king and the time he actually took over as king.  There were a few years in-between, and quite a bit of drama.  It’s easy to lose hope in the interim and doubt yourself or doubt God.

This white space time can be terribly confusing and the hardest part of life to endure.  Greear’s encouragement is not to waste the white space.  It reminds me of the story of Gracia Burnham.  Gracia and her husband Martin were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf rebels while on an anniversary trip in the Philippines in 2001.  They were in captivity for over a year.  On an episode of “Locked Up Abroad” Gracia told of this harrowing time.  The interviewer asked if it had changed her in any way.  She stopped and said something to this effect: “It has made me kinder and more forgiving.  I hope it has changed me.  Otherwise I have wasted 375 days in the jungle.”  I don’t want to waste my jungles either.

It was while I was reading Jesus Continued the first time through in the summer of 2015 that God showed me the meaning behind a big white space in my life.  Up to that point it was terribly confusing and just a dangling question mark for me.  I had felt a yearning or a “call” of God for missions when I was in college.  I certainly had a heart for ministry, if not missions.  I went to this big missions convention at the University of Illinois at Urbana twice with 20,000 other students.  Whatever capacity God would lead me to, I knew I needed to finish college, get some experience and Bible training, and then go.

Once I finished my second year of graduate school with a Bible degree I thought, “this is finally it.”  I had pursued different missions boards and landed on one to apply for a three year stint overseas.  I was accepted and went to their candidate school in Wheaton, Illinois.  In the middle of this three week missionary and pre-missionary gathering, the green light shifted to a flashing red light with no advanced notice.

Part of it had to do with the leadership.  They really didn’t communicate with me as they said they would and any time line that they set up where they said they would talk, they didn’t.  I waited patiently at first, less patiently as time went on and as the weeks and then months went on from there, until  I gave up.  My attempts to figure things out weren’t met with solid answers and I went into an emotional spin for at least three months, if not longer.

As I tried to get a word from God, He was putting things on my heart about returning to my home state of Wisconsin, to a small town, working in a church full time, in the denomination I last was a part of in through college.  I was living in South Carolina, on Hilton Head Island, and from there God moved me to the south shore of Lake Superior, in the middle of the winter–a very brutal winter.  But it was with an old friend from college who was a pastor of a smaller church who needed a youth director.

That was over thirty years ago.  I went from working in that church for five years, to feeling led to working in a school setting, which I have been doing full time for 26 years.  The “call to missions” that has continued to ring in my heart has been that white space, with a few other details surrounding it.  In the middle of most of that time, I was single and wondering what God was up to.

While reading the chapter in Jesus Continued, God helped me connect the dots, in an act of grace.  Check out this passage in Ezekiel 3:5-9: For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel–not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand.  Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you.  But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to Me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.  Behold I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads.  Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead.  Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.

It was like He spoke it straight into my heart.  This was the great “ah hah” for me, the answer to my white space.  I was fulfilling my call to missions by being right where I am.  God didn’t send me to a people with a foreign speech and a hard language.  If He did, they would have listened to me.  Instead, He sent me to my own people in my own home state.  And they aren’t willing to listen because they have a stubborn and rebellious heart.  I can vouch for that.  It has been a time of much spiritual warfare and little fruit, many hard hearts and little response.  In response to this, God has given me a face as hard as their faces and a forehead like flint.  I can take what they dish out, and more.

Why the white space and the difficult assignment?  Just as Deuteronomy 8 says: to humble me, and to show me what is in my heart so that I know I need God and I dare not trust in myself.  It is also that I might learn to obey God and to hunger for Him as my true daily bread over and above anything else.

May God fill in the blanks on your white spaces and may you learn the same lessons of humble dependence.  

 

 


Where the rubber meets the road

rubber meets road.jpg

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers and sisters.  Whoever does not love abides in death.  By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.  1 John 3:14, 16-18

John makes several statements in his book that have to do with figuring out whether you really have passed from death to life, or that you have Jesus.  I have been in settings throughout my life that urge people to simply pray a prayer, commonly known as the sinner’s prayer, and that is the proof that you are now a Christian.  In 1 John, John never mentions a prayer.  Rather, he mentions keeping God’s commandments, not practicing sin, and having love for others as ways to know that Jesus is really at work in our life.

Today’s verses are tough ones.  I gulp as I read them because I have a letter sitting next to me from someone who habitually asks for money.  I have left the letter sit, not quite knowing how to proceed.  I struggle with the adage, “If you give a man a fish…”  I want her to learn to fish and not be dependent.  Yet, this says if I have the world’s goods, which I do, then I can’t close my heart against her.  I can’t say I love God and not be generous when and where I can.

John also says in chapter 3 that we can’t hate anyone if we are a Jesus follower.  Are there people that you change walking routes if you see them coming?  I must confess that I do that occasionally.  It is time to examine my heart.  John asks the question, “How does God’s love abide in us?”  That is a good question to let rattle around in our heads.

How does God’s love abide in us?   In my job I can get so jaded by the demands of people, which as a principal includes kids, teachers and parents.  I have many people manipulating, blaming, making excuses, calling me many expletives and even sueing.  I can sit stoically while someone on the other side of my desk cries, usually in an attempt to control me.  I get it when Jesus said we are “to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” in Matthew 10:16.

Yet I must find a way to keep God’s love in my heart.  And I must keep a passion for His kingdom and His glory to fuel me.  I’m guessing your workplace and living space encounters aren’t much different, though the details may vary.  There are some passion fuelers that we need to make a consistent part of our lives:

  • Have consistent time in God’s Word and in prayer.   It has to be complete with a “so what?” question, that leads to application.  Our love for God, and our ability to be equipped for every good work, comes through getting grounded and centered by Him.  Jesus had to go away and pray to the Father, and consistently went to the ‘lonely places’ to do so.  If He needed it, so do we.
  • Following the model of passionate saints.  I love biographies of missionaries and of people who have done great things for God.  I find that the writings of those who lived before the 1970’s (just a ballpark date) to have a stronger metal that we do now.  My all time favorites include biographies of Jim Ellliot and the other four men who gave their lives in Ecuador, Amy Carmichael, David Brainerd, Gladys Aylward and Dr. Helen Roseveare.  
  • Worship music.  You have to weed through some of the Christian music that is a little too ‘me’ centered, but there are great songs of the faith that can fuel your passion for God and passion for others.
  • Find people who need Jesus to minister to.  One time I was giving a talk on Matthew 22:29, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.”  Someone asked how they could get their kids to not tune out to the Bible, Sunday School or church because they think they know all of those stories.  Ya da, ya da, ya da.  My quick response, so quick that I think it was from God, was to suggest that they go as a family to find people who haven’t heard about Jesus and minister to them.  Having the opportunity to tell women in jail about Jesus and the good news of forgiveness and peace with God fuels my passion.  Ask God to lead you to someone, and He will.

Back to our verses for today, “Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  1 John 3:18.  May God’s love and your passion for Him fuel you today.

*Image from The Bear and the turtle – wordpress.com

 


Mind Verbs

Moses

By faith, Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt for he was looking to the reward.  By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.  Hebrews 11:24-27

Do you have life verses?  Is it hard to just center in one or two?  Well, these verses are in my top three of verses that have been my anchors throughout my journey of faith, one which began over 50 years ago.  There have been up’s and there have been down’s.  There have been many victories and there have been some defeats.  I look back at the tough times when I just had to hang on to promises from the Word, pray and wait.  The mind verbs in these verses just ring in my head.

My experience is that the emotion of following Jesus can wear thin, even get ugly.  Good old Dr. Seuss has some wisdom in his book, “Oh the Place You Will Go.”

You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.  Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.  Except when you don’t. Because, sometimes, you won’t.  I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.  You can get all hung up  in a prickle-ly perch.  And your gang will fly on. You’ll be left in a Lurch.  You’ll come down from  the Lurch with an unpleasant bump.  And the chances are, then, that you’ll be in a Slump.

When you get in the slump, or when you are at forks in the road, facing value decisions, temptations, opposition, or  the wait of faith, get these mind verbs front and center.  Verbs are action words, like run, skip or hop.  These are mental actions words.  What we are anchored on determines how we choose at the many junctures we face.

Refuse.  Moses refused to be known as royalty, even though life would have been a lot easier.  Choose.  Moses chose to be mistreated rather than to to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  Consider.  Other words  for ‘consider’ are to think carefully about, to contemplate, to deem or to judge.  There’s the value judgment part–you have to weigh which thing pleases God, which doesn’t, or what has more eternal implications.  Moses deemed that the scorn of being a God follower was better in the end.  

Look.  Moses was looking ahead to the reward.  Looking ahead demands short term self denial and not immediate gratification.  It’s called delayed gratification.  One day there will be a reward for that.  See.  Moses somehow saw Him who was invisible.  That God revelation had to have started even before the burning bush, and it continued throughout the difficult days of getting to the Promised Land.

 


Troublemakers

negative energy

As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice,  have nothing more to do with him.  Titus 3:10

There are verses here and there that tell us what God thinks about people who stir up drama and division.  Here are a few of them:

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid.  For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.  Romans 16:17

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to Him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.  Proverbs 16:19

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.  Proverbs 10:12

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.  Hebrews 12:14-15

Are you starting to get the picture?  Being divisive is driven by bitterness and hatred and it needs to be kept in check.  Otherwise, it is like a cancer that spreads and takes others down.  It must be dealt with.  Paul tells how to handle someone who is a spreader of drama and contention: warn them twice and then, if it continues, have nothing to do with that person.

Actually, Paul tells about a few different types that we are to have nothing to do with.  In 2 Timothy 3:5 he wrote to avoid people that hold to the form of godliness but deny its power.  In Ephesians 5:3-7 Paul lists a bunch of things, including foolish talk and crude joking, along with greed and sexual immorality, that if believers exhibit them to stay away from.

Peace and purity in the body of Christ are big deals.  It might seem radical to have nothing to do with people that spread strife, and some might call it unloving.  But creating and maintaining an atmosphere of peace honors God and promotes spiritual growth.  

Think about your own handling of something that doesn’t go your way, or of trying to work together in a group.  Are you the one who resorts to ‘taking your ball and going home?’  Do you back stab, manipulate or undermine decisions?   Do you have unresolved bitterness that you need to take care of so you can sow peace and not drama?  Do you have a “friend” who is constantly stirring up trouble that you need to have a critical conversation with?

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.”  Colossians 3:15

 


Handle with Care

But reject foolish and ignorant arguments, knowing that they breed quarrels.  The Lord’s slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness.  2 Timothy 2:24-25 HCSB          

     gentleness quote.png

Proclaim the message.  Persist in it, whether convenient or not.  Rebuke, correct and encourage with great patience and teaching.  2 Timothy 4:2  HCSB

 

Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near. Philippians 4:5 NIV

We’ve been studying 2 Timothy in our women’s Sunday school class.  One of the challenges was to memorize 2 Timothy, which I took on.  Surprisingly, it only took me about a month to get it.  As I’ve memorized it and reviewed it since then, the verses about gentleness have echoed in my head over and over.

It must be something God wants me to develop, because I keep getting many opportunities to put gentleness into practice.  One of the responsibilities as an Elementary Principal involves dealing with parents.  Over the last few months, I have had a few parents who have been unreasonable, irrational and argumentative.  Sometimes it seems that they are just waiting to jump on someone, and the minute the slightest issue comes up, they pounce.

While these parents are chipping and chewing, these verses keep playing in the background.  I want to spit back and show them the holes in their thinking and actions.  Then there’s the part about not engaging in quarrels and rejecting foolish and ignorant arguments.  I call it “picking my battles.”

I don’t think that I am the only one who has to deal with argumentative, unreasonable people.  We all do.  How we deal with them reflects what is inside and Who we belong to.  One of the fruits of the Spirit, as listed in Galatians 5, is gentleness.  That means that as the Holy Spirit is alive and at work in us, gentleness comes out like an air freshener.  I wish it was just that easy.  There is an aspect of me diligently working on gentleness, or any other fruit or character trait that makes me more like Jesus than like my old, grumpy self.

I pray in the morning to put on kindness, compassion, gentleness, humility and patience as listed in Colossians 3.  But I still have to consciously be gentle in my interactions with difficult people.  It’s kind of like if someone else finds a job for you, answering a prayer for employment and money to pay the bills.   You still have to get out of bed each morning and go to work.  And once there, you have to fulfill the job expectations.  We have a part to play in the process.

So it is with gentleness.  God works in me as I call upon Him as I daily keep in step with the Spirit.  In Jerry Bridges’ book called “The Practice of Godliness,” he recommends memorizing verses about the character issue that you are working on. Hence, the above verses to memorize and to put into practice.  God, work Your gentleness in and through me today, in Jesus’ name!


More on fighting the good fight of faith

Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was a valiant man of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds.  He struck down two ariels (mightiest warriors) of Moab.  He also went down and struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen.  And he struck down an Egyptian, a handsome man.  The Egyptian had a spear in his hand, but Benaiah went down to him with a staff and snatched the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear.  These things did Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and won a name beside the three mighty men.   2 Samuel 23:20-23

Benaiah-600x600.jpg I stumbled on this quirky account the other day in my Bible reading.   It has caused my mind to go in many directions.  Here is this guy who probably wasn’t on the motivational speaker circuit.  Benaiah just did mighty things.  He struck down two of Moab’s mightiest warriors and a handsome Egyptian.  And he followed a lion into a pit on a snowy day and killed him.

In 1 Chronicles 11:23 the story about the Egyptian is told as well, adding the detail that he was 7 ½ feet tall.  So Benaiah killed a giant and was a lion chaser.  That’s a pretty good resume.  Because of his exploits, he got to be one of King David’s body guards.  We might not have giants and lions to contend with, but we have figurative ones that are just as daunting.  Benaiah didn’t run away from danger, he took it on and won.  I want to be that kind of person.

I’ve often thought that when David fought Goliath, he might have looked right over his nine foot tall head to see a mighty angel that was twenty feet tall, or even God almighty who is taller yet.  He didn’t see the size of the enemy, just the size of his God.  When the twelve spies went into the Promised Land, ten of them came back saying there were giants and called them to not take the land.   Caleb and Joshua didn’t have their eyes on the giants, but on their God who was bigger than the giants.  In fighting against the world, our flesh and the devil, we need the same view of our big God.  We need a mindset that sees the sufficiency of God rather than the size of our opposition.

Also, in a study done about grit by Angela Duckworth at Harvard, she found that the most prominent contributing factor in successful people wasn’t how smart, talented, or rich a person was.  The biggest factor was grit.  Grit is a dogged determination that never quits.  Grit is the bounce that enables us to get back up when we’re knocked down.  To fight a good fight we need faith, we need grit.

Finally, to fight the good fight,  we need obedience.  That’s how we can call it a ‘good’ fight, and not a dirty one, a crooked one, or one that took short cuts.

I want to be a lion chaser, one that kills giants, not a quitter, a coward or a cheater.  How about you?


Fight the good fight!

…Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.  Fight the good fight of the faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  1 Timothy 6:11-12

So we are to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness.  What does it look like to pursue those things? We have to run after them, like we would pursue a dream, or a love relationship.  If we love something or someone, we’re going to pursue that person or thing.  In the midst of running after righteousness, godliness and the rest, the key is to run after God.

Some questions to ponder today: Does God have your heart?  Does He capture your affections, your time, your energy, and even your daydreaming?  What does capture your affections, if it’s not God?  And what do you need to get rid of that is stealing away your attention and devotion?

boxing glovesHere’s the fight part:  It is a fight to drive away the competing attention getters and to be able to flee sin, bad company and bad habits.  I was just talking with four women in jail about this.  They know about Jesus and want to follow Him, but the difficulty for them is to abandon the old life, especially because they don’t have the resources to just move to another community and to start all over.  We talked about Hebrews 12:4 that states: “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

We also talked about Matthew 5:30 where it says, “If your right hand causes you stumble, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into Hell.”  Now that’s a fight.  Jesus’ call on our lives is a radical one, not ho hum.  For some people it is really a big switch to go from walking like a child of darkness to one of light.

We are at war with the world, Satan, and our own flesh.  The ‘world’ belongs to this world, and Satan is the ruler of it, according to John 14:30 where Jesus says, “The ruler of this world is coming.”  Satan is the father of lies and our enemy.  He seeks to steal, kill and destroy, according to John 10:10.  We can’t just “go with the flow” because the world’s flow goes the opposite direction of godliness and righteousness.  Finally, Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:11 to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”  Have you ever felt that civil war?

              Three things to think about in the fight that counteracts the world,                                         the flesh and the Devil:

  1. The Word renews our mind, and so does the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:1-2 and Titus 3:5).  Get into the Bible and stay in it.  Call on the Holy Spirit to empower you and to fight the flesh battle for you.
  2. Take your thoughts captive.  That’s 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.  Don’t be lazy about it.
  3. Learn and remember who you are in Christ.  Ephesians 2:3 says that we once were children of wrath, but that’s not who we are anymore.  We are children of the King and His Spirit lives in us.  1 Corinthians 6:11 tells us we used to be swindlers, drunkards, revilers, etc. but now we “have been sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Fight the good fight of faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.