Christianity 201

September 14, 2017

When Your Greatness Messes Others Up

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

The person next to me had figured out very quickly that I was not a good volleyball player. So whenever the ball came my way he would yell, “I’ve got it” and then he would get it. Everyone else on the team was playing volleyball. I, however, was playing dodge-ball. My role was to get out of the way and let the better player save the day. I do not know who won the game. But I do know that I did not grow as a volleyball player that day. I did not develop any volleyball skills that day. I didn’t even like playing volleyball that day. If I had any potential as a volleyball player, it was missed that day. This kind of thing happens in all areas of life. This kind of thing would not happen if people followed the Biblical principles laid down in Paul’s letter to the Romans:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:3 (NRSV)

When we think we are the best person to hit the ball back, we may think we should be the only person to hit the ball back. Our high opinions of ourselves easily translates into low opinions of others. We can do it, they probably can’t. We are capable, they probably are not. We are the solution, they are probably the problem. So we should do it, they shouldn’t. When we think of ourselves more highly that we ought, we can end up stifling others without even realizing it.

Paul goes on to speak about knowing our calling, finding our role and place, and so not squash out others as they are finding theirs:

4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. Romans 12:4-8 (NRSV)

These verses are as much “back off, and let others shine in their calling” as they are “discover your own”. They are an encouragement to shine, but they are also and encouragement to give space for others to shine also.

Messing others up by our own perceived greatness can happen in any relationship. Let us consider marriage, about which there is an interesting, and often misunderstood passage in the Bible. On first reading, Proverbs 31:10-31 seems to be quite sexist with the man doing nothing while the woman does everything. But keeping in mind the patriarchal society into which this Scripture is given, look at how much the wife accomplishes. While the titles given to this passage by translators are usually things like “Ode to a Capable Wife” (NRSV), or “The Wife of Noble Character” (NIV), another title might be “The Good Husband”. The good husband does not think he is better at everything and so does it all. The good husband does not think he is a better decision-maker and micro-manage his wife. The good husband gives space for his wife to shine. The final verse of Proverbs captures it well: “let her works praise her in the city gates.” Proverbs 31:31 (NRSV emphasis mine).

Not thinking of yourself too highly is part of “thinking towards yourself with smart thinking” to translate Romans 12:3 very literally. We are to have a good, reasonable self-understanding. Although Paul does not say it, included in this would be not thinking of ourselves too lowly either. At the very least, each person can say they are created in the image of God and so are therefore deserving of being treated with dignity. We have important functions within our families, networks of friends, and in God’s Kingdom. Romans 12:4-8, quoted above, is an encouragement to stand up and grow up into what God calls us to do, even if others seem to be better than us at the time of our standing. While we ought not think of ourselves too highly, recognizing that we are not indispensable in everything, neither are we to think of ourselves as disposable either.

Everyone around us benefits when we have a good self-understanding and a proper self assessment of ourselves. But no one benefits more than we, ourselves. When we have too high an opinion of ourselves we don’t see our need of anyone, even God. And when we have too low an opinion of ourselves we cannot imagine allowing ourselves to be loved by anyone, especially God. Having a proper assessment of ourselves is not just a matter of thinking clearly, it is a matter of loving dearly.


Read more at clarkedixon.wordpress.com

May 9, 2017

3 Wrong Ways to Judge

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment. – John 7:24 NASB

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.  – Col 3:14 NLT

[Love] bears up under everything;
believes the best in all;
there is no limit to her hope,
and never will she fall. I Cor 13:7 ISV italics added

Over the past eight years, this is our eleventh time returning to the writing of Paul Tautges at the website Counseling One Another. To learn more about his new book, Pray About Everything, click this link. To read today’s post at source and look around the rest of the site, click the title below. This article is also part of a series, other sections are linked at the end.

3 Ways We Judge Wrongly

Jesus instructed His disciples to judge righteous judgment (John 7:24), but He also said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matt. 7:1). Is this a contradiction? No. We are called to use biblical truth and wisdom to discern rightly, but we are foolish when we make judgments based upon appearance or only one side of the story. We are called to maintain a balance of grace and truth, but avoid a judgmental attitude. This bad attitude is, as Matt Mitchell defines it, “a heart disposition meant to be condemnatory and censorious.

So, where do we go wrong? When and how does judging become sinful? Mitchell explains three ways.

  1. Rush to Judgment – To form a conclusion about a person based upon hearsay, without going to him to hear the other side, is utterly foolish and destructive. It is folly and shame to answer before listening, to rush to judgment about another person without loving them enough to take the initiative to start a conversation (Proverbs 18:13). Instead we should believe the best about the other person, rather than assume the worst.
  2. Prideful Judgment – The deeper problem behind and beneath judgmentalism is pride. Pride is the elevation of oneself not only above other people, but above God’s law (James 4:11). But there “is only one Lawgiver and Judge,” and it’s not us. When we rush to judgment, we play God; “we act as if we are omniscient when we are not.”
  3. Unloving Judgment – The opposite of being judgmental is the virtue known as charitable judgment. “Charity” is the old word for love (1 Cor. 13:4-8), which compels us to believe the best about another person. Therefore, Mitchell counsels us well with these words: “If you and I are loving people with this kind of charity, we won’t sinfully judge or gossip about people. We won’t delight in the evil that we hear has befallen someone else. We won’t believe the worst about others. We will always hope for something better. Love is tenacious. Love does not pretend that all is well and sweep things under the carpet, but it does hang onto hope for others and believe the best.”

Instead of sinfully judging others, and then tearing them apart through gossip, the gospel obligates us to put on love, which bonds everything together perfectly in harmony (Col. 3:14).

As we continue to work through the book, Resisting Gossip, please consider reading and growing along with us. Previous posts include:


Here’s a song from 40 years ago. The lyrics are really relevant to today’s post. “Lord I want to cut him down to size / Help me see that brother through your eyes…”

February 14, 2017

Saying “I Love You”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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I’m hoping I will tell my wife I love her several times today. It’s not only Valentine’s Day, but it’s also our anniversary, and a special one at that.

Words like “I Love You” that can make a difference.

Last year we introduced a new (to us) author, Robin Patchen who lives in Edmond, Oklahoma and is the author of three books and blogs at Quid Pro Quills. The site actually features six different writers, and today we’re featuring another one, . As usual, click the title below and encourage these authors by reading their works at the original site.

Words

What are the last words you spoke to the last person with whom you spoke?

To be fair, I’ll share mine: “I love you, too.”

But if you’d heard my words yesterday, they would’ve sounded less beautiful. More… ungrateful. Untrusting. Unkind.

Words have the ability to encourage or the ability to destroy. When you add emotions, exhaustion, and ego to the mix, communication can be a minefield. The paradox? We frequently mete our harshest words to the individuals we love the most.

Why is that? Don’t you hate it? I do. I want to be a better listener. A better problem-solver. I want to end a conversation with someone knowing that I’ve affirmed him. In times of disagreement, my desire is that when the conversation is over, the problem has truly been resolved instead of postponed. I want to stop falling into the same speech traps that constantly leave me disappointed and defensive.

The gift of speech is one of the greatest gifts I’ve been given, but I’m so inept at utilizing the spoken word. That’s why the Proverbs wield power. These wise sayings help me to love God and my neighbor.

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 12:25

“He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.” Proverbs 13:3

“It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” Proverbs 20:3

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11

Sometimes the best use of the tongue is to keep it sealed behind our lips. Silence is a powerful form of communication. The best Communicator who ever lived, Jesus Christ, chose to remain silent even when He was unjustly accused and on the way to His crucifixion. I would’ve been screaming. But He was silent. He knew He was right. Therefore, He had nothing else to say. His final action of love was all that was necessary.

It’s tough to control our words. We should think before we speak, and if we do have to say difficult words, they must be spoken in love. One of the scriptures most difficult to apply is this: “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”

Father, give me wisdom. Use my speech to glorify You and encourage others. Make my words agents of Your healing.


Check out these related C201 articles:

October 14, 2016

Searching for the Better Life

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!” Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel.

When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected

…continue reading the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4

Today we pay a return visit to Neal Pollard who is in pastoral ministry in Colorado. Click the title below to read at Preacher Pollard’s Blog.

Better Living 

We find ourselves often bobbing in a sea of religious confusion. Many groups claim to be the best religion and point to their ingredients as reasons for such claims. Several years ago, our boys played basketball in a league hosted by a huge community church in the Denver area.  Their church’s campus includes a K-12 school, two restaurants, a gymnasium half the size of our church building, a coffee shop, and a hundred social program. Other groups would make their claim as “better” or “best” based on their numeric size, the number of programs they have, or how socially active they are.

Our religious attitude ought to be one of humility, which does not boast of our achievements or compare ourselves with others (cf. 2 Cor. 10:12).  Genesis 4 is not just about two kinds of worship, but also about two ways of living life. Cain is mentioned by three Bible writers after Moses introduces him in Genesis. The writer of Hebrews calls Abel’s offering more excellent than his (Heb. 11:4). John calls Cain’s works evil and his allegiance “of the wicked one” (1 Jo. 3:12). Jude implies that the way of Cain is the wrong way to go (11). Let’s make a few brief observations from Genesis four and see if we can find the elements which make for a better way of living today.

  • BETTER LIVING IS NOT DETERMINED BY AGE (1-2).  By birth order, Cain came first. He was the first person to be born in the natural order of childbirth. He was the very first newborn to be held in his mama’s arms. She didn’t realize that her cooing, sweet infant was a future murderer, and she was proud of him. She called him “a man child with the help of the Lord.” This depicts such a bright, optimistic future, and by contrast Scripture says, “Again, she gave birth to his brother, Abel” (2). Abel began in his brother’s shadow, first known to us as “his (Cain’s) brother.”
  • BETTER LIVING IS NOT DETERMINED BY OCCUPATION (2). When we look at these brothers, what they did for a living was not the determiner of the quality of their lives. While what they did had an indirect bearing on the events of this account, the fact of their occupation was spiritually neutral—Cain farmed and Abel tended sheep. One can reap blessings from tilling the ground (Heb. 6:7), but they may have to fight thorns, thistles, and weeds doing it (Gen. 3:18-19). Tending sheep may be done by slaves (Luke 17:17), kings (1 Sam. 17:34), or apostles (John 21:17). God’s pleasure or displeasure was not connected to either’s occupation.
  • BETTER LIVING IS DETERMINED BY WORSHIP (3-4). Moses says both brought an offering to the Lord. He also says God responded to bother offerings, accepting one and rejecting the other. That very notion is foreign to many people in our society today, even those in religion. Many make worship nothing more than taste, preference, and personal inclination. But, Moses shows us (1) Not all worship is equal: God had regard for Abel’s, but not Cain’s. The words “had respect to” signify in Hebrew to look at something with a very serious glance. God tells us how He wants worship done, in attitude and action; (2) The worshipper and the worship rise and fall together: God had regard for Abel AND his offering and did not for Cain AND his offering. That’s a sober reminder for me that my personal relationship with God is hindered or helped based on the way I worship God. Can I offer God vain and ignorant worship, and have God reject it but accept me? We are not earning God’s favor by getting worship right. At the same time, are we tempting God and hoping we stay in His favor while disobeying His commands for worship? People have tried to make this an “either-or” proposition, that Cain and Abel’s offering was either about getting the worship right or was about the nature of the person offering the worship. In other words, is it sincerity or obedience, our both sincerity and obedience? To thoughtfully ask the question is to answer it!
  • BETTER LIVING IS DETERMINED BY ATTITUDE (5-7). Cain reacts to having himself and his worship rejected by God by burning with anger and his face taking on an ugly look. He sounds like a small child in the throes of a tantrum or a teenager huffing and sulking in anger. God warns Cain of the recipe for disaster he was making through his attitude. He told Cain that his tempestuous attitude was an invitation for sin to pounce on him, but He told him he could master it! You can have a positive attitude without prosperity, education, or earthly success, but you cannot have a positive attitude without mastering self.
  • BETTER LIVING IS DETERMINED BY ACTION (8-16). Improper worship and attitude preceded and precipitated improper action. The first time “sin” is used (Gen. 4:7), God was looking ahead with perfect foresight to what Cain would do to his brother. He does the unthinkable, killing his own brother (cf. 1 Jo. 3:11-15). His deeds and ways were a recipe for disaster: He is rebuked by God, punished by God, and separated from God. Sin promises a good time and fulfillment, but it’s not true.

It’s been said that the lineage of Cain gave us murder, cities, polygamy, musicians, metal workers and poetry, but not one who walked with God! Thanks to his legacy, a descendant repeats his violent ways (Gen. 4:23). Abel seems to leave no physical lineage, but he still speaks after death. His was a life of faith, generosity, good works, righteousness, and obedience. We get to choose the kind of life we want to pursue. If we choose well, we will be satisfied, others will be blessed, and God will be pleased.

 

 

 

June 16, 2016

Losing It

No, I didn’t lose it with somebody, but I heard a story today that got me thinking...

But the fruit of the Spirit is…self-control.  (Galatians 5: 22-23)

Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless…not quick-tempered… (Titus 1:7)

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.  (James 1:19)

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 29:20)

Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool. (Ecc. 7:9)

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.  (Matthew 5:22a)

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry (Ephesians 4:26)

Some of you reading this are fairly even-tempered people. You don’t have a problem with controlling your temper. But for some of us, all types of situations can trigger a rise in blood pressure which results from an undercurrent of anger.

Your trigger might be handling long line-ups. Dealing with bureaucracies. Interacting with service-industry staff. Frustration over your own incompetence in a particular situation.

What gets you riled? Can you avoid those situations? Do other people or family members see you at your worst?

Today’s thoughts continue with an article by Lisa Harper at Christian Bible Studies on a similar topic, righteous anger:

What is “Righteous Anger”?

How can I know whether I’m feeling that or just being a hothead?

I grew up believing anger was a “bad” emotion. So I’ve needed several years of Christian counseling even to admit I get angry, much less to learn I can express those feelings righteously! Thankfully, God’s Word sets clear parameters for getting peeved.

What does God say about this? The bad news for hotheads is that Scripture contains many more verses warning believers against blowing their cool than verses advocating such behavior. The writer of Proverbs connects anger with foolishness: “Fools quickly show that they are upset, but the wise ignore insults” (Proverbs 12:16, NCV). And the apostle Paul recommends letting our heavenly Father fight our battles: “My friends, do not try to punish others when they wrong you, but wait for God to punish them with his anger. It is written: ‘I will punish those who do wrong; I will repay them,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19, NCV).

Sometimes, however, God allows his people to fuss and remain faithful. Such is the case when King David furrows his brow and huffs:

God, I wish you would kill the wicked!
Get away from me, you murderers!
They say evil things about you.
Your enemies use your name thoughtlessly.
Lord, I hate those who hate you;
I hate those who rise up against you.
I feel only hate for them;
they are my enemies (Psalm 139:19–22, NCV).

Or when Nehemiah gets upset after learning about the wealthy Israelites’ exploitation of the poor: “Then I was very angry when I had heard … these words” (Nehemiah 5:6, NASB).

What’s noteworthy in these situations is that David called down curses on sworn enemies of God, and Nehemiah directed his irritation at the “haves” repressing the “have-nots.” Both men were angry because of ungodly people or activities.

And Jesus expressed anger—at the Pharisees who exhibited such hard hearts (Mark 3:1-5) and at the crass commercialism that sullied the temple (Matthew 21:12-13; Luke 19:45-48)—to convey extreme displeasure over sin. Those reasons are the key to righteous anger.

How does this affect me? As Christ-followers, we’re totally appropriate getting upset over sin, too. Evils such as abuse, racism, pornography, and child sex trafficking should incense us.

But no matter how reprehensible the people or activities we’re condemning, we still aren’t justified to sin in our responses…

…continue reading the entire article at this link


Going deeper:

 

 

May 2, 2016

Lest Anyone Should Boast

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Genesis 11:1 NIV Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”


2 Corinthians 12: 7b NLT … So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.


Micah 6:8 CEB He has told you, human one, what is good and
        what the Lord requires from you:
            to … walk humbly with your God.


Proverbs 3:34 GNT He has no use for conceited people, but shows favor to those who are humble.


1 Corinthians 1:31 The Voice As the Scripture says: “If someone wants to boast, he should boast in the Lord.”

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think... Romans 12: 3a NASB

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think… Romans 12: 3a NASB

In the first two passages above we see God altering the circumstances in order to keep people — collectively in the first passage, an individual in the second passage — from become prideful or boastful.

Introverts might not get this, but as an extrovert, I can say that in my life there is very much a tendency towards arrogance.

In the movie Network the female lead is asked, “What’s it like to be the person in the room who always has the right answers?”

Smugly, she replies, “It’s awful, absolutely awful.”

Psalm 20:7 is a verse that some of you learned in the KJV and other translations as “Some trust in chariots and some in horses…” Having a gut feeling about this verse I checked and sure enough, these alternatives to trust exist:

  • Some nations boast of armies and of weaponry, but our boast is in the Lord our God. (TLB)
  • Some boast in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God. (NASB)
  • Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God. (NRSV)
  • Some take pride in chariots, and others in horses, but we take pride in the name of Yahweh our God. (HCSB)

What are our modern equivalents? We don’t have chariots and horses, but many of us have nice cars which we spend our Saturday mornings polishing and caring for. What else?

  • education; including academic certificates, degrees, etc.
  • knowledge; both specialized and general
  • intuitive abilities; logic, reason, quick wit, tech savvy
  • friends; the size of our friends list on social media as a possible example
  • status; standing in the community, perhaps our name is in the local newspaper or mentioned on TV
  • spouse; we take credit for what is really a gift from God to us
  • possessions; our house, car, cabin the woods, consumer electronics, etc.
  • passions; the hobbies and interests we are always talking about

Thinking about these things and speaking of them sometimes boosts are adrenaline, brings a smile to our faces, or causes us to speak with greater volume and passion. We’re energized thinking about these things, and we can become arrogant.

The last category above is a good lead to these two questions:

  1. What’s the first thing you think about when you get up in the morning?
  2. What do you talk about when it’s your opportunity to control the conversation?

God had to wipe out the Tower of Babel. He didn’t wipe out Saul/Paul however, but introduced a condition — and Bible scholars vary as to what exactly it was — to keep him humble. Laura Story, in the popular Christian song Blessings asks:

What if your blessings come through rain drops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?

We very rarely thank God for Babel-type changes in plans, or Paul-type ongoing conditions, but they do prevent us from being less of a person than we might be; from being a person that others may not find particularly attractive; and from presenting ourselves in a way that people see us, but don’t see Christ living in and through us.

 

January 28, 2016

Why “I Couldn’t Help Myself” is Often Untrue

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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2 Samuel 3:26 Joab then left David and sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern at Sirah. But David did not know it. 27 Now when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into an inner chamber, as if to speak with him privately. And there, to avenge the blood of his brother Asahel, Joab stabbed him in the stomach, and he died.

Earlier today we discovered a new devotional site that some of you might like to join for the current series on 2 Samuel. (You’ll have to backtrack a few days to start at the beginning; we’re going to be in chapter 3 today.)

Read it and Do It is written daily by Tennessee pastor Todd Stevens. Friendship Community Church’s statement of beliefs would make a great devotional here on its own.

As always, read this at source by clicking the title below. To start at the beginning of 2 Samuel, next click the header at the top of his blog’s page, and then scroll down to the start of the series.

Did your parents say these crazy things to you?

READ IT
Today’s chapter: 2 Samuel 3

When I was a kid, my parents said certain crazy phrases to me over and over. I swore I’d never use say of those clichés with my kids. “Don’t make me turn this car around!” “If you don’t stop making that face, it will freeze that way.” “Would you jump off a cliff just because all your friends did?” I think I’ve already said them all to my kids at one time or another.

There is a phrase I also remember my mom saying to me many times when I was angry. “You better just cool your jets, mister. Cool your jets.”

I hated it when she said that. First of all, I didn’t have any jets. Second, if I did have jets, why would they need to be cooled? But I knew what she meant. She was telling me to control my temper. I would get so mad when she said that because I was sure it wasn’t possible. How could I be expected to control my temper when I had every reason to be angry?

Joab felt the same way I did when I was a kid. His brother had been killed by Abner and he wanted revenge. He had every reason to be angry, so why should he be expected to control his temper? He let his anger consume him and got vengeance by murdering Abner.

Although his anger was justified, his actions weren’t. It wasn’t his place to exact justice. David was his king and he alone had the authority to decide whether Abner should be punished. Since David had sent Abner off in peace, Joab was out of bounds to kill him. He should have cooled his jets.

The idea that we can’t control our anger is a myth. Let me prove it to you. Think about the last time you got angry and lashed out at someone. Imagine that just before you lashed out, an angel appeared and offered you a million dollars if you could wait at least 10 minutes before responding in anger. Could you do it? (Please don’t get hung up thinking I’m suggesting this is something an angel would ever do. It’s just a hypothetical scenario…)

Here’s the point: if you could control your anger for 10 minutes for a million bucks, then clearly you could control your anger. Each time you’re in a situation that makes you angry, you can decide whether you’re going to allow your anger to consume you.

Nobody can make you furious without your permission. With God, you can choose to respond to anger in a way that demonstrates His love. Even if your anger is justified, you can still decide to cool your jets.

DO IT
At some point today, things aren’t going to be the way you expected them to be. You’re going to be angry and will have an opportunity to decide how to respond to it. Choose to demonstrate God’s love. Do something kind for someone who has done nothing to deserve it.

How will the situation change because of your choice?

 

July 26, 2015

Uriah’s Wife and Potiphar’s Wife

One of the Lectionary readings for today is the story of what the paragraph header in one translation calls “David’s Great Sin.”

2 Samuel 11:1Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.

      2Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. 3So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her

As it was read in the church we visited this morning, I couldn’t help but think of the contrast between this story and the story of Joseph with Potiphar’s wife.

Genesis 39:4Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his [Potiphar’s] attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. 5From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. 6So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate...

Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” 8But he refused…

11One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.

You wouldn’t know it by the classical art paintings shown at Wikipedia, but I’m sure in that time and place Potiphar’s wife — whose name is never given — was in her day equally hot as Bathsheba, who by today’s standards doesn’t fare well in similar paintings either. Rather, there’s something else going on here; we ascribe Joseph’s refusal of the woman’s seduction to his character whereas we look at David’s actions as showing a lack of character.

Joseph was doing his job. While today leaders — Christian or otherwise — are advised not to put themselves in a place where they are alone with a woman, he was after all where he was supposed to be. Responsibilities for Potipar’s household was written into his job description.

Like Joseph, there are many times in my life where I can look back and say that I held my convictions and remained strong in the face of sexual temptation. But as a I grew older, I realized that if I was really strong, I wouldn’t have put myself in those situations in the first place.

Many pastors and counselors who must meet with a person of the opposite sex often do so with their office door kept open, or meet in a public place. Temptation can happen at any time. Under the circumstances — and let’s face it, without warning in the book of Genesis to read — Joseph did well.

David, on the other hand, was not where he was supposed to be. You could say his observing the woman on the roof was a chance accident, but the first verse in the text simply doesn’t give us that option. He was at that time in the wrong place, and worse, he initiated the sexual encounter with Uriah’s wife.

Where Joseph ran away from the temptation, David ran toward the temptation. Where Joseph did everything he could do to avoid a sinful situation, David engineered the circumstances to both commit adultery and attempt to cover it up.

When Potiphar’s wife didn’t appreciate having her advances spurned, she fabricated a story that ended up with Joseph in prison. Despite this, God was orchestrating a plan that would see him returned to the same position of power, or one even greater, that would save the nation and even save his own family.

It’s a stretch, but because through the years in prison it came about that Potiphar learned that Joseph could interpret dreams, I can almost hear Joseph saying to Mrs. Potiphar what he would later say to his brothers,

Gen 50:20You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

David recognized his sin, and we believe his prayer of confession and his plea for God’s mercy. But there were long-term consequences. The wound healed, but the scars remained.

Ask Yourself: Because temptation is everywhere, when I encounter it, am I going to be Dave or Joe?


Bible verses today are from BibleHub.com; each verse number is also a link.

 

 

August 23, 2014

Everybody Needs a Prophet

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Nathan confronts David

Nathan confronts David

On Saturday I was reading an article at Huffington Post about a popular U.S. minister who is presently experiencing a rather dramatic fall from grace. Because we don’t do news-specific or time-specific devotionals here, the details are not important; though in fairness, because we’re quoting from it extensively, here is the link. But what struck me was one section of a larger article suggesting the man needs to hire a prophet. I think this article has a timeless quality that transcends the current Christian news cycle.

What would that look like?

The author, Jack Levison blogs at Spiritchatter and is author of Fresh Air: The Holy Spirit for an Inspired Life (Paraclete Press, 2012). He begins with a look at what you don’t want: A false prophet.

What Not to Hire

Let’s start with what not to hire. One Old Testament writer (actually, a prophet himself) named Micah described false prophets in words worth reading right now:

Here is GOD’s Message to the prophets,
the preachers who lie to my people;
“For as long as they’re well paid and well fed,
the prophets preach, ‘Isn’t life wonderful! Peace to all!’
But if you don’t pay up and jump on their bandwagon,
their ‘God bless you’ turns into ‘God damn you.’
Therefore, you’re going blind. You’ll see nothing.
You’ll live in deep shadows and know nothing.
The sun has set on the prophets.
They’ve had their day; from now on it’s night.” (Micah 3:5-6, The Message)

Micah criticizes the leaders of his day for their neglect of justice, but here his real beef lies with other prophets — false prophets — whom he lambastes. Why?

First of all, these so-called prophets “give oracles for money” (Micah 3:11). They “cry ‘Peace’ when they have something to eat, but declare war against those who put nothing into their mouths” (3:5). These prophets cozy up to power, like members of a pastor-appointed board or pastor-appointed counselors. This is the last kind of prophet [he] needs right now; he’s got plenty of supporters.

Second, these so-called prophets refuse to recognize that criticism can be inspired by the Spirit of God. Wrong! claims Micah. It’s not true that “the Spirit of God has been cut off,” as they claim (Micah 2:7 in Hebrew), just because he criticizes his people. Criticism isn’t a sign of God’s absence but a sign that God is still all in — and a prophetic critique is what [he] needs right now.

Then he goes on to add what you do want:

What to Hire

… Someone like Nathan, who blasted King David for his dalliance with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12). Someone like Micah, whose concern lay with “justice, power, and might” rather than personal popularity or professional esteem.

So here’s what I suggest… hire a full-time prophet. Not a friend but an opponent. Not a pushover but a person of incisive intellect. Maybe not even a man but a woman. Someone like Deborah, who exercised enormous power among Israel’s early judges (Judges 4). Like Huldah, whose prophecies led to intense reform (2 Kings 22).

Most important, whomever [he] picks — or better yet, whoever is picked for [him] — has to be free of self-interest, impervious to intimidation, and sure that honest criticism is the work of God’s Spirit. Someone willing to stand and say, with Micah, “But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare … transgression and … sin” (Micah 3:8).

…After I formatted this for today’s reading, I thought about how this applies to each and everyone of us in a way that is perhaps more familiar: Mentoring and accountability. But when someone rises to a position of power and influence, sometimes their mind tricks them into believing they do not have to come under the authority of another.

That’s where the whole prophet thing kicks in. The prophet comes alongside and speaks what needs to be spoken. Someone who is “willing to call it for what it is.”

Do you have someone who speaks into your life?

 

 

 

December 2, 2013

Ten Occasions When You Should Say Nothing

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This is a recurring theme here. Maybe God is trying to tell us (me) something! This list was compiled by Lina Abrujama at the blog True Woman under the title, Ten Times It’s Wise to Hold Your Tongue

I talk too much. Way, way too much.

But God is committed to teaching me when to hold my tongue.

With that in mind, let me share ten situations with you where I’m learning it’s better to refrain from talking:

1. When you have no idea what to say

Proverbs 17:28: “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”

2. When you’re wrongly accused

1 Peter 2:23: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return.”

Isaiah 53:7: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth.”

3. When you’re mad

Proverbs 25:28: “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”

4. When you’re confused about life

Lamentations 3:25–28: “The Lord is good for those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord . . . Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; let him put his mouth to the dust—there may yet be hope.”

5. When you wouldn’t want someone else to find out you said it

Luke 12:3: “Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.”

6. When you don’t really mean it

Proverbs 3:28: “Do not say to your neighbor ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it,’ when you have it with you.”

7. When you can’t stop yearning for the good old days

Ecclesiastes 7:10: “Say not, why were the former days better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”

8. When you have a lot to do and you don’t like it

Philippians 2:14: “Do all things without grumbling or complaining.”

9. When the timing is wrong

Proverbs 25:11: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in setting of silver.”

10. When you don’t have anything to say that gives grace

Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear it.”

February 3, 2013

It’s All In Your Perspective

Last week Pete Wilson reported on an insight he had while up in my part of the world, so even though this is shorter, I kinda had to include it here!! Click here to read at Pete’s blog where this was titled, A Breath of Fresh Air.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

A couple months ago I was in Toronto, Canada to speak at a conference. The driver who picked me up from the airport was a middle aged man named Lucas. He was from the Philippines. It’s funny how you can learn so much about a guy by just spending a few minutes in a car with him.

Pete Wilson on Cross Point LiveIn route to the arena we began talking about life and family. He had four children, but was the youngest of 11 brothers and sisters himself. He spoke a little bit about how he made it to Toronto and how much he loved living in Canada.

During the commute we hit a stretch of road where traffic almost came to a complete stop. As we got closer to the bottleneck I realized it was a construction project. While in the middle of small talk with Lucas I couldn’t help but think…. “Stupid traffic. Stupid construction. Will they ever finish all these projects.” However, as we drove through the construction Lucas chimed in with…“Sure is wonderful that the government here has the resources to fix up the roads like this. In the Philippines we didn’t have these kind of resources and the roads are virtually impassable throughout most of the country.”

This is just one of the many scenarios God has used in my life recently to remind me that gratitude really is a choice.

Gratitude is not based on how good your situation is but on how good you see your situation to be.

That’s why someone with half of what you have can be so much more thankful than you.

It is simply true that the person who has chosen to make gratitude his or her mind-set and lifestyle can view anything–anything–anything through the eyes of thankfulness. The whole world looks different when we do. And a grateful man or woman will be a breath of fresh air in a world contaminated by bitterness, cynicism, and discontentment.

~Pete Wilson


And now here’s an exclusive bonus item that appeared exactly a year ago at Thinking Out Loud. You may have noticed that the link to Pete Wilson’s article today begins with “Without Wax.” Here’s the 411 on the blog’s original name which doesn’t appear there anymore:

The word sincere comes from the Latin phrase sine cera,which means without wax. The phrase comes from a practice where people would hide the cracks in cheap pottery with wax in order to pass the pottery off as being worth more than it actually was. Quality products were often stamped with the words sine cera to show that it had not been doctored, that it was in fact authentic.

I can’t think of a better name for a blog that is, above all, authentic and transparent. If Pete Wilson is not in your blog reading routine, check out the pastor of Nashville’s Cross Point Church’s blog.

October 10, 2012

Being a Person of Integrity

Here are five powerful messages in one from Jeff Jones Blog, originally posted as The Road of Integrity. Click through to read more great posts like this one.

“People with integrity have firm footing, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.” Proverbs 10:9, NLT  

We all know that the fastest and most efficient way to get between two points is a straight line. The original Hebrew word translated for “integrity” is defined as “straightness”. People who walk with integrity typically walk a straight line. Their lives are defined as ordered and in control. But folks who live on the edge, always try to cut corners, and tend to be a little less than truthful are defined by following crooked paths. The result is always the same, they slip and fall.

I want to share with you five things that will help you to walk down the road of integrity.

#1  Develop Your Character

We live in a world that is extremely superficial. If you’ve got the looks: you’re in. People are enamored by appearance and are more interested on the outside than what’s on the inside. But here’s the deal– you can alter your appearance a ton of different ways, but you can never hide what’s on the inside. Because whatever is on the inside, will come out when you’re squeezed. When you squeeze an orange, you never get apple juice.

So we all need to develop our character. Character is something that we can develop and work on everyday. It’s not glamorous or sexy, but it does define who we are. Ask God to help you develop a character that honors Him and allows you to walk in integrity.

#2  Be Honest

I remember the advice my mother gave me over 50 years ago, “Honesty is the best policy.” Well it’s just as true today as it was back in the 60’s. Here’s how it works:

A.  Be Honest with Yourself– it always starts with us doing a little self analysis.

B.  Be Honest with God– He knows everything about us already, so just be honest with Him.

C.  Be Honest with Others– learn to shoot straight with the people in your life.#3  Do The Right ThingEvery day we’re faced with a ton of decisions. We come to a fork in the road where we need to draw on our integrity to make a decision on what direction to take. The choices we make determine our present as well as our future. Often times we’re forced to choose between doing the right thing which could mean more work or a delay in moving forward. Sometimes doing what’s right isn’t the easiest thing, but it’s always the right thing, for us and those that will follow our footsteps.

“The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him.” Proverbs 20:7, NKJV

#4  Pay Attention To the Small Stuff

The Bible reminds us that it’s always the little foxes that spoil the vine. That’s a great reminder that we need to pay attention to the little things of life. Every day when an aircraft carrier gets ready to launch its aircraft the entire flight deck crew walks the deck, shoulder to shoulder, making sure that there is nothing that could get sucked up into the jet engine. Our Navy men and women know the importance of paying attention to the small stuff.

I remember finding a stack of quarters at the spray car wash one day. I could have used those quarters to wash my car, but they weren’t my quarters. They’d been left there by someone, and of course it wasn’t a big deal, but the bottom line is they weren’t mine. I left them there for the next guy.

#5  Keep Your Word

This is an easy one. Just say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t say one thing and mean another. It’s the old adage, “Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk.”

Don’t promise to meet someone for coffee if you really don’t plan to ever do it. Listen to what the Bible says about this.

“…let your yes be yes and your no, no, lest you fall into judgment.” James 5:12, NKJV

Make a point to only say things that you believe and that you will back up with your actions. Every time you keep your word you are building your integrity.

 “Father, help me to walk in my integrity. I seek to bring You honor and You glory by my words and by my actions. I desire to walk the straight and narrow with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
This is the second visit to Jeff Jones blog here. Click to see a previous article.  And here’s a more recent piece from his blog on strength and courage.