Wednesday, May 30, 2012

No Better Than The Rest

Proverbs 15:1 "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
How many times have I listened to others argue and wondered why they didn't stop to really listen to each other?  During those times I need to stop and remember the times when I have been just as guilty.  If I don't then I am worse than they.  I am definitely no better than they, so I shouldn't judge them.
There is something we can do in these situations, however.
Verse 7 says, "The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools."
We can share with others what we have learned regarding arguing.
There are very few arguments in this world that are of any worth.  Most are simply one opinion versus another, which does no one any good.  Opinions can be changed only through experience and God is the One that brings that about.  If we believe someone to be of a wrong opinion because it differs from our own, then we should pray that God reveals it to them.  However, we should also be open to Him revealing to  us that WE are the ones that are wrong and desire to be shown, if that is the case.
What is worth arguing over?  I don't know that I have a real answer for that.  I don't know that arguing ever does any good at all.  Since God's Word says a gentle answers turns away wrath, perhaps we should always give a gentle answer, even if said answer differs from the person's with which we are sharing.
There are times when a little more emphasis is necessary, such as when you are in an authoritative position and have explained how something is to be done over and over again and no one wants to listen.  This was the case in the following example:
"Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.  And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves."  Matthew 21:12-13  
Notice that Jesus made it clear that this was nothing to argue about.  He didn't make false accusations, make derisive comments, or dare them to respond.  He made His statement, explained why He was doing what He was doing, dished out discipline needed and went about His way healing the lame and infirm. 
Sin should anger us, whether in our own or the life of someone else.  Anything that comes from the evil one should make us angry, but we need to learn how and where to direct that anger.  
Here is our example.  God's Word is plain about what sin is.  We should love people enough to get angry when we see them engrossed in it as the money changers were.  We should let them know that we know what they are up to, that we disagree and that we will have no part in it - then walk away.  Do we stop loving them?  No.  Jesus continued loving so greatly that He continued His journey to the cross.  Anywhere along the way He could have said, "Forget it, Father!   They're not worth it!"  Praise God, He didn't!  He kept going and paid the price for me - a sinner, but forgiven!

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Greatest Force

For three days thoughts regarding Matthew 11:12 have been swirling through my mind, urging me to write, but the opportunities were minimal and never long enough.  A moment here or there, but never time to really pray and listen to God's response as to what I should write.  Instead, He has been whispering to me to remember what He wants of me.
There are times when thoughts come and I start to write, get interrupted and never go back due to the fact that I am never reminded to write about them.  This time, however, is one of those things I cannot let go.  So here I am with an hour to spend in contemplation and listening.
"From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it."  NIV
“From the days of Yohannan The Baptizer until this hour the Kingdom of Heaven is led by force and the violent are seizing it.” ABIPE
"And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force."  KJV
This verse sounds so violent, especially since it is Jesus talking, so it stands out vividly.  There are very few times in Scripture where you will find Jesus speaking so strongly.  His normal approach is gentility to the max.
Here, however, it seems He is speaking quite firmly and wants to get a point across that we can very easily miss, if we're not careful.
The word for 'violent men' is by-ace-tie and means, 'one who uses violence, or is impetuous, one who is forceful in eager pursuit.'  (Kingdom Force by Avram Yehoshua - great online article about this verse)
The force of love is the greatest force of all - "for God is love."  I John 4:8
It is Love that took Jesus to a violent cross and forced open the gates of Heaven so we could enter simply by believing Him, receiving Him and confessing Him as Lord.  God's love is so extreme that He was willing to use the force of that love to destroy the foundations of sin and set us free through the extremely violent death of His Son Jesus on the cross.
We need that same force in our lives in order gain that "eager pursuit" of heaven for ourselves and all those around us.  Once we have received Jesus as our personal Savior, we cannot let go of that violent force of Love that urges us to get out and teach and preach His Word.
The sense of urgency that besets the soldier going into battle and forces him to go beyond his wildest imaginations in order to take back the freedom that he and his family, friends and loved ones have been robbed of is the same sense and greater that is spoken of here.  When the soldier keeps his thoughts focused on the freedom to be gained rather than what he could lose (his physical life) he becomes a force to be reckoned with and the enemy begins to fear him.  We call him "hero."  However, if he focuses on his fears, he will run away and hide and be either destroyed by the enemy or his own people.  We call him "traitor."
We see this as just and right, but the thought of God calling us a traitor for turning our backs on Him and refusing His gift and duty to battle in love seems horrendous to us.  God our Creator, who made us in His own image, must bow to us and do what we want of Him.  Our desire is to make Him in our image instead.  Though He is the Commander in Chief above the president or any other man regardless of leadership position,  we choose to be angry at His choices, even though we accept those of ordinary men.
God has given us a command: "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Teaching them to obey whatsoever I have commanded you."  Matthew 28:19-20
He then gives us a promise: "And lo, I am with You always, even to the end of the age."  Matthew 28:20b
My prayer is for each of His true children to rise up with eagerness to take the kingdom by the force of Love through much prayer, study and testifying of His grace.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Pride Stupor

It amazes me daily how easy it is to fall into a stupor of pride.  It is difficult to recognize at first, because of its subtlety.   It sneaks up on us like a kitten at play, but when it pounces, it has somehow transformed into a wildcat.
 My personal journey with pride is long (all my life), burdensome at times and frustrating at best.
Just as I start thinking that maybe I've come along a little way, something happens that reveals another area of my heart where it has been lurking, waiting for a time and place to burst forth.  It wouldn't be so intolerable if it wasn't trying so hard to destroy me.   But if it were more tolerable, I wouldn't have the desire to be free of it.  I am thankful that it is so detestable.
Pride destroys a testimony in its first breath.  Think of the pharisee and the tax collector.  Before the pharisee uttered his first words, his thoughts betrayed their meaning - I am better than "these" types of people.
We each have our own versions of "phariseeisms."  (My made up word.)  "Look at how fat/skinny that person is!  I'm glad that's not me!"  "They are so stubborn!  Glad I'm not like that."  "I can't believe she said that!"  While God sighs.
   "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."  Proverbs 16:18
The more I desire to be free of pride, the more it is revealed in my spirit man.  While this hurts dreadfully to realize the extent of my own sin nature, I realize that the discipline of sin revealed is the only way to deliverance.