Christianity 201

May 24, 2019

Urgently Wanting Something May Be a Sign of Bitterness

We’ve previously run some devotional articles by Jay Mankus who writes at Express Yourself 4 Him, and for today’s selection, I wrestled with three equally interesting pieces. The one below I read three times and each time through I was impressed by how the Biblical text weaved in and out of the application, and how the paragraph that one might expect to come first came at the end.

But more than the writing, I wondered if there were times in my life when I was like the character in the Biblical narrative. As always, click the title below to read this at source. There’s also a bonus article and each one is accompanied by a Christian music video at his site.

Provoked by Bitterness and Bound by Sin

If you blessed to be around a newborn baby or infant eager to start crawling, you will witness periodical tantrums. Some will signal moms that it’s time to breast feed or change a dirty diaper. Prior to being able to speak, crying, fussing and screaming are signs of displeasure and unhappiness. When you examine these fits of rage from a biblical perspective, knee jerk reactions from any human being are often provoked by bitterness.

18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this authority and power too, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit,” Acts 8:18-19.

There is where parenting will influence and shape the character of a child. If parents allow children to get everything they want as soon as he or she cries, the more spoiled this individual will become over time. This display of bitterness is a sign that the human flesh, known as the sinful nature is alive and well. Anyone not trained or taught to resist this urge, will be provoked by bitterness and bound to sin.

20 But Peter said to him, “May your money be destroyed along with you, because you thought you could buy the [free] gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this matter, because your heart (motive, purpose) is not right before God. 22 So repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, this thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are provoked by bitterness and bound by sin,” Acts 8:20-23.

During a trip to Samaria, Luke records an interesting conversation between Peter and a magician called Simon. Based upon the passage above, Simon appears to have been spoiled in his younger years, normally getting whatever he wants. Subsequently, Simon offers Peter a bribe, attempting to receive the Holy Spirit through a cash exchange. However, this isn’t how God works. When motives are impure, prayer is necessary to get yourself right before God. Yet, unless you deal with bitterness and sin in a biblical manner, healing won’t occur. Fasting, prayer and seeking godly counsel are steps on the road to recovery. The best therapy to overcome the root of bitterness is meditating on the Word of God. Exercising spiritual disciplines will release you from the bondage of sin.


Here’s a bonus article by the same author:

The Synagogue of the Freedmen

A synagogue is the building or location where a Jewish assembly meets for religious worship and instruction. In biblical times, small towns and villages with less than ten men met out in the open, often along the banks of a river or sea. One of these places of worship was known as the Synagogue of the Freedmen. These individuals were of collection of freed Jewish slaves from Alexandria, Asia, Cilicia and Cyrene. Past experiences as slaves created an instant bond for these men.

However, some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (freed Jewish slaves), both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and [the province of] Asia, rose up and questioned and argued with Stephen, Acts 6:9.

Based upon the passage above, the members of this synagogue felt threatened by Jesus. Perhaps this community of believers was afraid of change, especially to Jewish traditions that they embraced. Thus, their reaction to Jesus being the long awaited Messiah was similar to the chief priest and Pharisees who crucified Jesus. Subsequently, the Synagogue of the Freedmen began a smear campaign against Stephen. This newly appointed apostle was bombarded by a character assassination provoked and incited by the people.

51 “You stiff-necked and stubborn people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are always actively resisting the Holy Spirit. You are doing just as your fathers did. 52 Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; 53 you who received the law as ordained and delivered to you by angels, and yet you did not obey it!” – Acts 7:51-53

Stephen was put on trial, forced to give an account of the false accusations made against him. It’s unclear whether or not the Synagogue of the Freedmen were pawns urged by religious leaders or willing participants. Regardless of the motives, Stephen blames this behavior on resisting the Holy Spirit. Any type of change is difficult. However, when you make a decision to dedicate your life to Jesus, this means living by a new set of standards, the Bible. Stephen was stoned to death and other Christians were persecuted. As modern souls wrestle to make spiritual decisions today, the fear of change remains. For anyone still on the fence, may your hearts and minds embrace the Holy Spirit.

December 31, 2016

Bitterness: Part Two

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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We pay annual visits to certain blogs, but last year we missed one. We’re making up for that with two posts this weekend — yesterday and today — from the blog Sharper Iron. Be sure to read part one of this excellent study.  Aaron Blumer is a Michigan native and graduate of Bob Jones University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Click the title below to read at source.

Six Ways Bitterness Can Poison Our Lives

Bitterness can be a good thing. Hannah’s bitter disappointment led her to earnest prayer. Peter’s bitter weeping moved him toward repentance. Job’s bitter ordeal has been a source of comfort for untold millions. And God commanded Ezekiel to weep bitterly as a means of warning his people of coming judgment (Ezek. 21:11-12).

But for us sinners bitterness is perilous.

At best, continuing bitterness becomes part of a toxic spiritual stew that includes “wrath, anger, clamor and slander” as well as “malice” (ESV, Eph. 4:31). At worst, unchecked bitterness breeds unbelief to the point of life-altering, faithless choices (Deut. 29:18, Heb. 12:15).

Here we’ll consider six ways self-indulgent bitterness poisons us.

1. More Bitterness

Like mildew in the shower, bitterness seems to multiply itself. We reap what we sow (Gal. 6:8). Similarly, in Romans 1:21-31, sinful attitudes lead to more sinful attitudes and actions, spiraling downward toward an ever-uglier condition. And near the beginning of that decline is a simple failure to “honor Him as God” and “give thanks.”

The sinners in Romans 1 are not believers, but sin works the way sin works—even in the reborn. In the case of bitterness, we brood about some offense committed against us, some disappointment, some failure, some loss. We tell ourselves how unfortunate we are, how mistreated we are, how alone we are, how tragically unrealized our potential is. Emotions escalate and bring more intensely and expansively negative and bitter thinking—more unthankful thinking.

Soon bitterness taints, then corrupts, our entire inner (and eventually outer) life. Best to lay it aside (Eph. 4:31) early!

2. Poorer Health

The Proverbs reveal that attitudes and emotional states impact our physical health.

Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. (Prov. 3:7–8)

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot. (Prov. 14:30)

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Prov. 17:22)

We’re physically harmed by a state of heart that dwells continually on the negative—what ought to be but isn’t, what I should have done but didn’t, what somebody ought to do but isn’t, what I wish I had but don’t.

These ruminations “make the bones rot.”

3. Corrupted Affections

Ephesians 4:31 doesn’t specify that bitterness is the cause of the other sinful attitudes in the context. It does reveal desires (“affections”) that feed each other. Bitterness breeds bitterness but also encourages more comprehensive corruption of our attitudes and conduct. In Ephesians, it tops the ugly attitudes list.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

In James bitterness is linked closely with jealousy, envy, pride and a pseudo-wisdom associated with demons (James 3:14-15).

The mysterious case of “Simon the Sorcerer” is insightful as well. Soon after Philip brings the gospel to Samaria (Acts 8.5-8), the amazing Simon (Acts 8:11) hears the message and “believe[s]”—and it’s his turn to be amazed (Acts 8:13).

But when he sees the apostles facilitate the Spirit’s coming to the Samaritans, he offers to buy the secret of this power from Peter. As expected, Peter rebukes him. But the apostle’s analysis of what ails Simon is surprising (8:20-23). Peter accuses Simon of:

  • thinking God’s gift could be bought
  • having a heart that is “not right before God”
  • wickedness in the “intent” (epinoia) of his heart”
  • being full of the bile (kole, “gall”) of bitterness (pikria)
  • being tied up (sundesmos) by iniquity (adikia)

There is more than ordinary greed for power going on here. Whatever the precise role of bitterness was in Simon’s life, his bitterness was a major factor in the corruption of his values.

4. Damaged Relationships

The progressive decay of bitterness taints our relationships in so many ways—a critical spirit, a judgmental attitude, a “persecution complex,” just general unpleasantness. Naomi throws a wet blanket on the homecoming celebration in Bethlehem (Ruth 1:19-20). Before that, she tries to send everyone she loves away (Ruth 1:12-13). Peter leads others back into fishing (John 21:3) rather than feeding Jesus’ lambs (John 21:15). Esau’s bitterness contributes to a widening rift between himself and Jacob, lasting for years (Gen. 27:34, 41-42).

Though the word “bitterness” does not appear in the context, a similar dynamic is evident in Cain’s disappointment and resentment toward Abel (Gen. 4:5-6, 8). We know how that relationship turned out.

And bitterness can be contagious as well (Heb. 12:15. See Deut. 29:18).

5. Hollowed-out Worship

The Bible reveals that Christian joy is not a mere emotion. In Philippians, for example, an abundance of joy and rejoicing coexists with tears (Phil. 3:18). However, though joy can coexist with sorrow, it cannot coexist with the bitterness of resentment, anger, and malice.

Just as bitterness toward others drives wedges into our relationships, bitterness about life in general chills our relationship with God.

It’s no coincidence that joy and thankfulness are so dominant and so often paired in the most worship-focused book of the Bible, the Psalms. Worship is fundamentally humble, thankful, and joyous. Bitterness is fundamentally joyless, unthankful, and ultimately proud.

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy! (Ps 107:21–22)

6. Unbelief

In Hebrews 12:15 we find a solemn warning much like Moses’ warning in Deuteronomy 29:18.

Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit (Deut. 29:18)

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 (Heb. 12:15)

It’s somewhat unclear here whether the unbelief produces the bitterness or the bitterness produces the unbelief. The relationship probably goes both ways.

The attitude of the Israelites at the place ironically named “bitter” (Marah) is a classic example (Exodus 15:23-24), as is their later response to the challenges of the conquest—and many events between.

Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And … grumbled  … “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt? … Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Nu 14:1–4)

Again, Hebrews is eye-opening:

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin… . As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? (Heb. 3:12–16)

When I indulge in prolonged, self-pitying or resentful bitterness, I’m either turning my focus away from revealed truth or rejecting it—or some of both. At best, bitterness is unbelief by neglect. It effectively denies that God is both wise and good—wise enough to know best how the events of my life ought to unfold and good enough to have the best purposes for whatever He has allowed me to experience, or lose, or fail to gain.

Happily, God has graciously provided more than enough resources for battling bitterness. We’ll consider some of those in a future post.

 

December 30, 2016

Bitterness: Part One

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
Tags: , , ,

We pay annual visits to certain blogs, but last year we missed one. We’re making up for that with two posts this weekend, today and on Saturday, from the blog Sharper Iron.  Aaron Blumer is a Michigan native and graduate of Bob Jones University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary. This is a great study on this subject. Click the title below to read at source and be sure to come back tomorrow for part two.

Bitterness Happens

Bitterness is a cup we all have to drink sometimes, though some taste it far more often than others and some mixes are far more noxious than others. The bitterest afflictions are those that are continuous—an irreversible decision with seemingly unending consequences, an irreparable but inescapable relationship, the loss of someone so close to us we can’t figure out who we are without them, a gradual ebbing of health and with it both the grief of lost vitality and the resentment of feeling that it happened too soon and wasn’t fair.

In these cases and many more, bouts of bitterness are unavoidable. But with each perfectly normal attack of spiritual and emotional heartburn comes a temptation to indulge and harm ourselves.

I wish I could title this post “I Beat Bitterness and You Can Too,” but my battle with bitterness is ongoing—almost daily. The struggle has led to study, though, and the truths of Scripture have often proved to be powerful medicine. I need to review them, and the exercise may also help you or someone you know.

If, like me, you’re in the “battling bitterness and often not winning” club, you know you need all the help you can get!

The Poison of Bitterness

In both the Old Testament and the New, “bitter “and “bitterness” are associated with foul tasting substances that make us sick. The most common Hebrew and Greek terms are used two ways: literally, of bad tasting or contaminated substances and metaphorically, of a kind of sickening and contaminating affliction of the inner man. A few samples illustrate the pattern and also help us think biblically about the problem.

When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter [Heb., mara]; therefore it was named Marah. (ESV, Exodus 15:23)

[T]hey shall be wasted with hunger, and devoured by plague and poisonous [meriri, bitter] pestilence (Deuteronomy 32:24)

She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly [verb, marar] with me.” (Ruth 1:20)

“I loathe my life; I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness [mar] of my soul.” (Job 10:1)

And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly [Greek adverb, pikrōs]. (Matthew 26:75)

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” [noun, pikria] springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; (Hebrews 12:15; see Deut. 29:18)

The name of the star is Wormwood [a bitter plant]. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter [verb, pikrainō]. (Revelation 8:11)

Affliction vs. Infection

Bitterness happens. That is, it often comes upon us without our choosing and can’t (even shouldn’t) be avoided. Much like a physical pathogen, brief exposures in smallish quantities may strengthen us, but highly potent or profuse exposures tend to overwhelm.

If we also make poor choices in response, we’re likely to move beyond affliction and deep into infection. We begin to suffer lasting harm and also to spread our bitterness problem to those around us. A look at some of the ways bitterness commonly afflicts may help us avoid crossing over from affliction to infection.

  • Regret
  • Grief
  • Disappointment
  • Resentment

Regret

Esau’s regret is painful to even read.

As soon as Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter [mara] cry and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” (Ge 27:34)

No doubt, Peter’s post-denial, bitter cry burned not only with regret but also horror and shame (Matt. 26:75).

When we’re afflicted with the bitterness of regret, our focus is on what we should have done. As a close cousin to repentance, this sort of bitterness has an important role in God’s work of remaking us in Christ’s image. Linger there too long, though, and the affliction becomes infection. Soon we’re ready to hang it all and go fishing (John 21:3—apparently not what God in mind for Peter, John 21:17).

Grief

As the bitterness of regret focuses on what we should have done (“If only I had …!”), the bitterness of grief focuses on what or whom we have lost. It often accompanies the bitterness of regret, as in Esau’s case, or the bitterness of resentment and anger, as in Job’s case.

Naomi’s example is so insightful. She has lost those closest to her, whom she not only loved but depended on for the basic necessities of life. But she clearly crossed over from the affliction of grief into the infection of bitterness—not only failing to rejoice at her warm welcome back home to Bethlehem, but throwing a wet blanket on everyone else’s enjoyment of the occasion.

See seems to eventually recover, but in Ruth 1:20-21, Naomi is pretty toxic. Those of us who struggle with bitterness of our own have to find a quick exit when these bitterness emitters come around.

Disappointment

The bitterness of disappointment is close cousin to grief. The difference is that grief flows from what we had and lost, while disappointment is focused on what we hoped for (quite possibly still wish for) but have never had.

So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?” After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. (1 Sa 1:9–10)

Hannah’s story has a happy ending. Her commitment to pour her pain out to the Lord eventually meets with His mercy—but not before bitterness robbed her of much of the pleasure of what should have been a joyous occasion, and not before her bitterness spilled over at least a little on those who loved her.

Resentment

Who can blame Job for feeling the anguish of his losses? But his bitterness goes beyond the affliction of grief. With the aid of his perhaps well-meaning friends, the pain of his losses festers into the bitterness of resentment. As regret and grief focus on what we should have done and what we have lost, resentment focuses on what we feel we deserve—that we aren’t getting. Resent insists that our affliction isn’t fair.

“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. Am I the sea, or a sea monster, that you set a guard over me? When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death rather than my bones. I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are a breath. (Job 7:11–16)

Job has not only lost everyone he loved and everything he worked to build, but has lost even the ability to rest. He handles it better than most of us would. Still, his resentment is a bitterness infection, as he—though not in so many words—acknowledges eventually (Job 42:1-6).

A Word of Caution

I feel more sympathy than disapproval toward these bitter souls. On occasion, I’ve been Esau, Peter, Naomi, Hannah and even a bit of Job—some days, I try to be all of them at once!

But if we let them, the afflictions of bitterness will infect and destroy us and often badly injure innocent bystanders in the process.

Many of us find that even briefly revisiting the bitterness of Esau, Job, Naomi, Hannah and Peter puts our own pains in a better perspective. But the Bible also calls us to antithetical attitudes that, as they flourish, leave bitterness without much space. Lord willing, we’ll ponder some of these attitudes in a follow-up post.

October 31, 2012

Pivotal Circumstances Bring Greatest Life Lessons

This month I was privileged to meet a fellow-Canadian blogger and writer, Diane Lindstrom in person.  Last week she shared a very personal post at her eponymous blog aka Overflow, under the title, Where There’s A Front, There’s a Back.  I thought it should be shared with more of you here, but you’re encouraged to click through and get to know Diane.


Jesus Prayed

Much of life is spent getting out of bed.  Fixing lunches.  Turning in assignments. Changing diapers.  Paying bills. Routine.  Regular.  More struggle than strut.

You thought marriage was going to be a lifelong date?  You thought having kids was going to be like baby-sitting?  You thought the company who hired you wanted to hear all the ideas you had in college? Then you learned otherwise.  The honeymoon ended.

But at the right time, God comes.  In the right way, He appears. So don’t bail out.  Don’t give up.  He is too wise to forget you, too loving to hurt you.  When you can’t see Him, trust Him.

So what does God do while we’re enduring the pain?  Mark 6:46 says, “Jesus prayed.”  He prayed for His disciples when they were in the storm.  And when He heard their cries, He remained in prayer.

He’s praying a prayer right now that He Himself will answer at the right time.
“Jesus is able always to save those who come to God through him because he always lives, asking God to help them.” (Hebrews 7:24-25)

~Max Lucado from A Gentle Thunder

Life just doesn’t go the way you think it’s going to go…

…but there’s a front and back to everything – the bigger the front, the bigger the back. I truly believe that the most painful trials can yield the deepest healing and the greatest joy. When I think back on my life, I recall five extremely painful, long lasting struggles, yet each experience changed me because God was there and He heard my prayer.

1. When I was in university, life was “rolling along like a song” until my nineteen year old and healthy friend died in his sleep. It was the first time that I truly understood the fragility of life and I became very fearful about death. I had never experienced such anxiety and I wasn’t equipped to deal with the intensity of my feelings. I ran to the Lord. I prayed, I cried out to the Lord and I began to memorize scripture to replace the lies that I was telling myself. Eventually, I knew His peace,  I was able to accept my mortality and live each day more fully.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!   Isaiah 26.3  

2. My biological father left our family when I was two years old. My mother got married two more times but I never felt close to either man – I wanted to meet my real father and I spent the next twenty years, thinking of and looking for him. My mother cut my father’s face out of all the family pictures and she refused to talk about him. She was given my father’s address but she chose to withhold this information from me. My father died and my mother made a choice to never let me meet him. I had never felt so angry in my life. I ran to the Lord. I prayed, I cried out to the Lord and I memorized scripture to replace the lies that I was telling myself. Eventually, I knew His forgiveness and I was able to forgive my mom. 

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4. 31,32

3. My third child was born at 11:00 pm. on August 22nd, 1988 and from that night on, for fourteen months, I experienced profound insomnia. My life fell apart. I wasn’t able to cope with three young children and I needed help. I went for counselling and slowly, I surrendered to the truth that I was not in control of my life. I ran to the Lord, I prayed, I cried out to Him, I memorized scripture to replace the lies that I was telling myself and I came to understand that I desperately needed God’s help every minute of the day. Eventually, I knew His faithfulness and I was able to surrender and trust Him. 

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55.8,9

4. In 1988, my husband left our family and threw our lives into turmoil. It was the most unexpected and painful time of my life. I was devastated.  I felt like a complete failure. I felt lost. I felt angry and  sad. I ran to the Lord, I prayed, I cried out to Him, I memorized scripture to replace the lies that I was telling myself and I stopped allowing my feelings to direct my life. I began to live according to His Word, not my feelings. Eventually, I knew His strength and I was able to persevere through trial. 

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1.2-4

5. When my daughters were in their late teens, they went through a time of great rebellion and deep suffering. There were many dark nights for me. I lost perspective  – I couldn’t see a way out for them or for me. I ran to the Lord. I prayed, I cried out to Him, I memorized scripture to replace the lies that I was telling myself and I was able to step back and wait on Him. Eventually, I knew His hope and I was able to  give my daughters’ lives over to the One Who loved them more than I did. 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10.23

PEACE

FORGIVENESS

SURRENDER

STRENGTH

HOPE

I’m a different person now and I am forever thankful that the bigger the front, the bigger the back. God hears my prayers and I know, without a doubt, that the greatest victories come out of the darkest times. The glorious truth is this:

Jesus is able always to save those who come to God through him because he always lives, asking God to help them.            Hebrews 7.24,25

~Diane Lindstrom

July 28, 2012

Painting The Image of Christ

CEB – James 3:10 Blessing and cursing come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, it just shouldn’t be this way! 11 Both fresh water and salt water don’t come from the same spring, do they? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree produce olives? Can a grapevine produce figs? Of course not, and fresh water doesn’t flow from a saltwater spring either.

She calls herself Cloudwatcher. She reads this blog regularly, and has one of her own, Meeting in the Clouds, at which she replies to each and every comment that her many readers leave. Articles contain an elementary truth that has application both for people who are ‘learning the ropes’ about following Christ and for those who have been ‘climbing’ for many years, like the one I’m featuring here today.

This appeared a few weeks ago under the title IMPOSSIBLE! It had to be Rectified! I encourage you to click through and read it at source, and then look around at other posts. You might also find things here you want to copy and forward to people you know.

This is not a typical painting.  It is HUGE, measuring 460 x 880 cm (15 x 29 feet) and covering an entire large wall, with LIFE-SIZE depictions of the figures contributing to the scene’s drama.

Although “The Last Supper” had been painted before, Leonardo da Vinci’s version was the first to depict real people acting like real people.

Leonardo chose to paint the very moment in which Christ announces there is a traitor among the disciples.  Through his brilliant brushwork, he manages to make the moment come to life, with each person displaying very human, identifiable emotions.

His painting also stands above the rest because of the technical perspective. Every single element of the painting directs one’s attention straight to the midpoint of the composition, Christ’s head, and is arguably the greatest example of one point perspective ever created.

Leonardo started the painting in 1495 and completed it in 1498.  He scoured the streets of Milan for more than two years, searching for faces to make the visages of the disciples.

There is much evidence to support the account that Leonardo had a violent quarrel with a fellow artist and that he was so enraged and bitter that he determined to paint his enemy’s face into that of Judas, and everyone who saw it immediately recognized the likeness.  The painting continued, but when da Vinci came to paint the last face, that of Christ Himself, he could make no progress. His best efforts were futile.

After many attempts, he realized his problem. He could not paint the face of Christ while harboring bitter feelings.  He painted out the face of Judas and commenced again on the face of Jesus, this time with the brilliance acclaimed for centuries.

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE
to paint the features of Christlikeness
INTO OUR OWN LIFE
while we paint another face with the colors of hatred and revenge

We CANNOT be used by Christ
to further His kingdom, to tell of His love, to sing His praises,
if we are HARBOURING GRUDGES or ILL WILL against another

Search me O God and know my heart:
try me and know my thoughts.
Psalm 139:23

Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart,
from a good conscience, and from sincere faith. 
1 Timothy 1:5

Thoughts from Mr Anon:

  • No matter how much you nurse a grudge, it will never get better.
  • What is the heaviest piece of wood in the world?  A chip on the shoulder.
  • When we are born into God’s family, we should bear a family likeness.

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me:
All His wondrous compassion and purity.
O Thou, Spirit divine, all my nature refine,
Until the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.

July 5, 2012

Don’t Waste Your Sorrows

Even after his passing, the late David Wilkerson, founder of Teen Challenge, continues to minister to many through the David Wilkerson Devotions blog, where this appeared under the title,  Don’t Waste Your Afflictions.

The book of Numbers contains a sad example of wasted afflictions. The five daughters of a man called Zelophehad came to Moses asking for a share in the possession of the Promised Land. They told Moses,

“Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not in the company of them that gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah; but he died in his own sin, and had no sons” (Numbers 27:3). These women were saying, “When all the others rose up against you with Korah, our father wasn’t one of them. He wasn’t in rebellion. He died in his own sin.”

This last phrase struck me as I read it: “He died in his own sin.” This meant that although their father had seen incredible miracles—deliverance out of Egypt, water flowing from a rock, manna coming from heaven—he died in unbelief with the rest of his generation. Of that generation, only faithful Joshua and Caleb survived the wilderness.

Obviously, these five daughters were born in the wilderness and they grew up in a family full of anger toward God. All of Israel’s testings and trials produced only hardened unbelief in their father and these young women grew up hearing murmuring, complaining and bitterness. At breakfast, lunch and supper, there was constant bellyaching, with never a word of faith or trust in God. Now these women had to tell Moses, “Our father left us with nothing—no hope, no possessions, no testimony. He spent those forty years whining and in bitterness, because life was hard. He died in sin, his life a total waste.”

What a horrible thing to have to say of one’s parents. Yet I must warn all parents reading this: Your children are watching you as you’re under affliction and your reactions and behavior will influence them for life. So, how are you behaving? Are you wasting your affliction, not only for yourself but for the generations that follow? I hope your heirs are being established in Christ as they hear you say, “I don’t like this affliction but blessed be the name of the Lord.”

I know many Christians who become more bitter and grumpy with every new affliction. The very afflictions meant to train and sweeten them, trials designed by God to reveal His faithfulness, instead turn them into habitual complainers, sourpusses, and meanies. I wonder, “Where is their faith, their trust in the Lord? What must their children think?”

Beloved, don’t waste your afflictions. Let them produce in you the sweet aroma of trust and faith in your Lord.

~David Wilkerson

November 23, 2011

Do The Math: 70 X 7

You’ll find links to Russell D. Moore’s blog Moore To The Point in various spots at Thinking Out Loud, but this is the first time he’s been featured here.  This appeared at his blog under the title, What Forgiveness Is And Isn’t.

The most difficult math problem in the universe, it turns out, is 70 x 7. Perhaps the hardest thing to do in the Christian life is to forgive someone who has hurt you, often badly. But Jesus says the alternative to forgiving one’s enemies is hell.

One of the reasons this is hard for us is because we too often assume forgiving a trespasser means allowing an injustice to stand. This attitude betrays a defective eschatology. At our Lord’s arrest (Matt. 26:47-54), Jesus told Peter to put his sword back into his sheath not because Jesus didn’t believe in punishing evildoers (think Armageddon). Jesus told Peter he could have an armada of angelic warriors at his side (and one day he will). But judgment was not yet, and Peter wasn’t judge.

That’s the point.

When we forgive, we are confessing that vengeance is God’s (Rom. 12:19). We don’t need to exact justice from a fellow believer because justice has already fallen at the cross. We don’t need to exact vengeance from an unbeliever because we know the sin against us will be judged in hell or, more hopefully, when the offender unites himself to the One who is “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2).

A prisoner of war who forgives his captor or a terminated pastor who forgives a predatory congregation, these people are not overlooking sin. Nor are they saying that what happened is “okay” or that the relationships involved are back to “normal” (whatever that is). Instead they are confessing that judgment is coming and they can trust the One who will be seated on that throne.

You don’t have to store up bitterness, and you don’t have to find ways of retaliation for what’s been done to you. You can trust a God who is just. If you won’t forgive, if you refuse to rest in God’s judgment without seeking to retaliate, it doesn’t matter what your evangelistic tracts and prophecy charts say. When it comes to the gospel and the to the end times, you’re just another liberal.

~Russell D. Moore

March 30, 2011

Healing Power of Forgiveness

As of tomorrow Christianity 201 will complete a full year of daily devotional writing and deeper Bible study.   There has been a mix here of original pieces and “reprints” from across the Christian blogosphere.   There is no shortage of sources for devotional material; anyone with a need simply has to look.  Today I discovered Daily Enounter, a ministry of ACTS International, which you can read by subscription.  This sample devotional appeared there under the title, Forgiveness: The Power to Heal

Some years ago during a visit to Yellowstone Park, one writer observed that the only animal that the grizzly bear would share his food with was a skunk. It wasn’t that the grizzly wanted to share his food but rather that he chose to. With one swing of his powerful paw he could have crushed the skunk. So why did he allow the skunk to eat with him?

Because he knew the high cost of getting even. Smart bear!

Undoubtedly he learned the hard way. Strange that we humans often aren’t as  smart. Sometimes we carry grudges for years, often repressing them from conscious memory, and end up hurting ourselves more than the ones we would like to get even with. We fail to see how damaging an unforgiving spirit is.

In his book, None of These Diseases, Dr. S.I. McMillen says, “Medical science recognizes that emotions such as fear, sorrow, envy, resentment and hatred are responsible for the majority of our sicknesses. Estimates vary from 60 percent to nearly 100 percent.”

I read one report of an astonished patient who was told by his doctor: “If you don’t cut out your resentments, I may have to cut out a part of your intestinal tract.”

Fortunately, the man took the doctor’s advice. He had been nursing a bitter grudge against a former business partner. He went to see this man, resolved their differences, and forgave him. When he returned to the doctor, his physical condition had cleared up.


That advice isn’t new of course. The greatest physician who ever lived, Jesus Christ, pointed out 2,000 years ago the importance of forgiveness. When he encouraged us to “forgive seventy times seven,” he was thinking of our physical as much as our spiritual well-being. As Dr. McMillen says, he knew that a forgiving spirit would save us from “ulcerative colitis, toxic goiters, high blood pressure, and scores of other diseases.” including ulcers, asthma, arthritis, neuro-dermatitis, and heart ailments—all possible effects of resentment.

The Bible’s advice is therefore just as relevant today as it was when written 2,000 years ago: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”1

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'”2

“Suggested prayer: “Dear God, thank you God that you have forgiven me for all my sins, failings and shortcomings. Help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me. Gratefully in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

P.S. “Failure to forgive is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die!”

1. Ephesians 4:32.
2. Matthew 18:21-22, (NIV).