Wisdom Prayers – Proverbs 20

I ate too much one night last week—WAY TOO MUCH!  And it came back to bite me, to burn, and act like a volcano within me.  Well, it was Taco Tuesday, and I love tacos, and hot sauce (though the feeling does not appear to be mutual!).

I really struggle with the “I feels…” …like eating more tacos than I should …or thinking the best way to relax is to sit in front of the television …or wandering around on social media (my latest addiction:  Pinterest) – and I am so adept at finding ways to justify my “addictions”!

The apostle Paul wrote through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. … You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Romans 8:5-6, 9).

In the preceding chapter (Romans 7), Paul delineates the struggle we all (whether we admit it or not) have against the sin that resides within us, our human nature or “flesh”.  Past religious teaching, my upbringing in a rather dubious and somewhat cultic denomination, implied that we could, somehow, overcome our sinful nature by adhering to laws, or “the law”, if you will—the problem is that legalism can only change behavior, it doesn’t touch the nature of sin that is ours through the original sin.  However, we can confess our sin, and rejoice with the apostle Paul in declaring, “Wretched man [woman] that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Romans 7:24-25).

Which brings me back to our mindset, where we choose to focus our attention, …or, “[our] attitude, disposition, or mood” … “The ideas and attitudes with which a person approaches a situation, esp. when these are seen as being difficult to alter” … “A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretations of situations” … and, “An inclination or a habit” (from Dictionary.com).

There are many ways to approach life and the circumstances that surround us every day; and learning to walk in the Spirit is a growing process.  It is easy to revert to the “flesh”, my natural inclinations, attitudes, and habits in response to the things that seem to overwhelm me (even restlessness and boredom seem overwhelming sometimes!).

But we are cautioned, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Romans 3:2-3

Soooo, all of that to get to the prayer I read from one of my journals the other day that, among other things, includes a paragraph about responding to life with one of the many substitutes available (alcohol) for living life the way we are called—walking in the Spirit…

tryagain

Father, thank you for your Word; thank you for your Spirit and truth.  Teach me, Lord; establish your wisdom deep within my soul.  Help me to comprehend the spiritual realities of the scriptures that extend them beyond being wise sayings written down centuries ago to expressions of your wisdom, relevant to my life today.

Lord, it is easy to be led astray by alcohol—your Word doesn’t forbid an occasional glass of wine, though the Holy Spirit admonishes through the apostle Paul, “do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).  There are times of stress or fatigue when it is easy to say, “I need a drink”, when in reality, what we need is to seek you, to be filled with your Spirit.  Convict your people when the promises of wine or string drink lure us away from intimacy with you; instead, help us to recognize our need to seek you for peace and restoration.  Grant us discernment to recognize that wine is a mocker, and quicken our hearts to pursue you to meet the needs of our souls.

Jesus, you are my King, the ultimate authority in my life.  Help me to live with integrity on earth, praying for the leaders of this country, respecting their authority and acknowledging your sovereignty.

Guide the hearts of your people away from strife; help us to avoid quarreling.  Train your children to work with diligence to accomplish your purposes for us in every season of our lives.

Grant me discernment, O God; protect me from evil people and shelter my life from the enemy who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy.

No one can make their own heart pure; nothing can cleanse our lives from sin except for the redeeming blood of Jesus.  Thank you, Lord God my Savior, for your incredible, amazing gift.  Continue to wash me with your Spirit and your Word—purify the motives and attitudes of my heart, I pray.  Open my ears to hear your voice and my eyes to recognize your ways.

I ask, Father, for a family heritage of integrity, that my children and grandchildren would choose to live as your children, with pure and upright conduct.  Keep them in your love, your grace, and the power of your Holy Spirit.

Help us to be careful in all our personal interactions.  Keep us from dishonesty or attempting to take advantage of others.  If someone manipulates or takes advantage of us, help us to be quick to forgive, recognizing that you take care of your children and provide all that we need.

Encourage me to be careful about my words, Lord; to seek knowledge and to speak with wisdom.  Teach me to recognize slander before I utter it—let your Spirit convict me when I am inclined to slip into simple babbling.

Remove every inclination towards revenge or retribution from our hearts.  Remind your people of the injustices you suffered for our sakes and help us to forgive as you forgive all those who receive you.  Encourage us to trust you in every one of life’s circumstances, recognizing that you order our steps—and you are aware of the difficult people and situations we encounter.  Help us, Holy Spirit, to live with integrity in all our ways.

Endow your people with wisdom to manage the resources you have entrusted to us, and opportunities to use the gifts with which you have enriched our lives.  Search our hearts and bring light to the hidden attitudes and motives that do not honor you—may we respond with humility and cooperation to your conviction and discipline, O Lord.

You alone, O God, are righteous—steadfast love and faithfulness come only from your throne; I owe all my worship and allegiance to you.  Your majesty and dominion are everlasting, and I belong to you!  Hallelujah!  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

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Passion Week

I took my granddaughter to a park last week to play and enjoy the fresh, springtime air.  On our way there, I stopped at a small fruit and vegetable stand near where we live and I was able to purchase some freshly picked strawberries.  For me, being able to enjoy fresh fruit and veggies is something akin to finding an amazing treasure – I felt rich and very blessed to have these sweet gems to enjoy!

As I was sitting on the park bench watching Eugenie play, I noticed someone walking towards me—a homeless man who made his bedroom in a gazebo nearby.  He offered me a candy bar to share with my granddaughter, saying that he had just purchased it.  I felt uncomfortable taking it because I didn’t want to take something from him that may have cost him much, yet I didn’t want to insult him by refusing it, either.  So, I took it.

As we were leaving the park a little later I considered giving him a basket of strawberries.  I had an internal conversation with myself about not wanting to insult him—debating the pros and cons of giving him the berries and ending up driving away with all my berries still in the back of the car.

I do that a lot—disrupt the passion of kindness with my own logic.  Yet before the wise man wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes…” (Proverbs 3:5-7a), he wrote, “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart” (v. 3).

Most often, I forget the extravagant kindness, steadfast love, and faithfulness of God towards me, which makes it difficult to express His amazing grace to others.

Passion (a powerful or compelling emotion; an extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire) Week is all about God’s love towards us, His fallen, broken creation.  “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7).  And in the next verse, Paul goes on to counsel Titus, “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.  These things are excellent and profitable for people” (v. 8).

Paul wrote this to the church at Ephesus:  “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).

Besides Jesus’ betrayal, torture, and crucifixion that week, [Could He have done anything else with such far-reaching, eternal consequences?] His cleansing of the temple demonstrates His intense passion in opposing the perversion of religion by mankind.

“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.  He said to them, ‘It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” but you make it a den of robbers.’  And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.  But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were indignant…” (Matthew 21:12-15).

Jesus evokes passion in those who love Him…and in those who hate Him!

And nothing can waylay our passion for Jesus like human-defined religion or the concerns and attractions of this world!

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.  See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.  For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority” (Colossians 2:6-10).

And… “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).

I go to church and worship Jesus with intensity.  And then I leave and the passion of Sunday morning slips away into the responsibilities and routine of life.  I’m not sure I can replicate the fervency of church worship time, yet I know each day I have the choice to fix my attention on Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).  …understanding that passion without emotion is the commitment to keep Jesus at the center of my life, serving Him with abandon and with thanksgiving, rejoicing in the knowledge that He is faithful—and even in those times when my eyes slip away, His Spirit draws me back into intimacy with my Savior.

 

 

 

 

 

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Looking for that City…

 

We moved recently.  “PCS” or “Permanent Change of Station” is a way of life for military families, yet it is not very permanent.

There is a “white-picket fence” part of me that longs for a home to settle in, get established in a church, and know, that apart from unforeseen events, I am home and will be here the rest of my days on earth.

(A little non-sequitur here:  Amid the busy-ness of the move, getting settled, and needing to refinish some bedroom furniture, my computer died! …which, in part, explains why you haven’t seen any posts from me for a while.  I am grateful for my son who advised me on how to salvage the hard drive!)

The thing about it is, there are no Permanent Stations here on earth, life will always be changing, we will always be, by the grace of God, adapting.  Abraham understood that, even though God promised to give him a new home, a land, and a family, his future lay elsewhere.  “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing’” (Genesis 12:1).

“…God said to him, ‘Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.  No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.  I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations and kings shall come from you.  And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.  And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:3-8).

Abraham lived in tents, no white picket fences, in a land that God promised to give him and the generations of his family afterward – an everlasting covenant that we are still waiting to see fulfilled!

The thing is, not being completely settled on this earth, not having all our desires fulfilled, is ok!  This is not our Permanent Change of Station – it is yet to come!  Our home, our jobs, the things we enjoy such as our cars, our houses, our electronics, our wardrobes, and all the possessions that we treasure are temporary, better things are coming!  Like Abraham, we are looking for that city whose designer and builder is God: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance.  And he went out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. …These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on earth” (Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-14).

What matters most right now is loving “the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” …and loving “your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31)

And the best way to do that is to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

It is way too easy, allowing circumstances and things of this world become so important to us that our emotions plunge us deeply into disappointment or frustration, those times when what we want evades us, things don’t work out as we had planned, or people fail to meet our expectations.  Often, we don’t realize just how attached we are to temporary things until our reactions betray us!

Here’s the counsel the Holy Spirit gave through Paul to the Colossian church, applicable to us today: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).

My flesh, the earthly part of me, often distracts me and my focus strays from my eternal destiny, but God promises that the good work He has begun in me, He will bring to completion (Philippians 1:6), and there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).  –It is my intention is to continually grow in the grace and knowledge of God, to bring my focus back to things above, and to walk faithfully with my Savior.

 

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Faulty Thinking

The Bible is amazing!  I love studying it and recently I’ve spent a lot of time in the book of Genesis (even though I frequently wander away for other studies).  I especially like praying through the scriptures as the Holy Spirit leads.

I read a verse recently that nagged at my thoughts for a while—two brief, rather cryptic (in my opinion) sentences that seemed to conceal an emotion-laden situation packed with potentially tragic consequences.  “While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine.  And Israel heard of it.”  (Genesis 35:22)

My immediate response— “What was he thinking?”

What indeed!

Was he motivated by lust? Or was this a power play on his part, challenging his father’s authority and attempting to establish himself in a position of influence over his brothers—a position that was already his because he was the firstborn.  Perhaps he did this because he had a skewed moral code.  Whatever the case, he was wrong to sleep with his father’s concubine.

Granted, his father had not followed the pattern God established for marriage at creation—one man married to one woman for a lifetime—yet that was not a valid excuse for Reuben’s behavior. 

Making excuses for ourselves because of what someone else has done (or is doing) is never enough to release us from accountability for our own behavior—whether we are followers of Jesus or not.  Yet as Christians, we have all the resources of heaven, the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us, and the promises of God, available to us.  “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Many nowadays seek to challenge the Father’s authority by rejecting, debating, or qualifying His inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word—the Bible.  However, (speaking from experience here), it suits us more to deny or attempt to re-interpret God’s Word to suit sinful and broken human nature instead of acknowledging the fact that we are indeed sinners, our lives and our thinking are broken, and we are all in need of God’s Spirit and His Word to change both our behavior and our thought processes.

The book of Proverbs has sage counsel on those who rely on their own wisdom:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.”  (Proverbs 3:5-7) and…

“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?  There is more hope for a fool than for him.”  (Proverbs 26:12)

The prophet Isaiah wrote through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:  “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!  Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20-21)

Whatever pushed Reuben towards such an error in judgment (sin), it did not work out well for him.  This is what Jacob pronounced regarding Reuben in his final blessing/prophecy over his sons: “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.  Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it—he went up to my couch!” (Genesis 49:3-4)

Things will not work out well for us if we fail to recognize the authority of God’s Word (or are not intimately acquainted with it), for whatever reason—whether rebellion, indifference, or misguided compassion.  It is contrary to the purposes of God to solve problems or confront evil with evil!  And sometimes we all too easily forget just how “great is our God!” with circumstances blinding our eyes to His righteousness, justice, and sovereignty.

Sometimes we think he needs our help to do His job, yet this He affirms:

“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!  For I am God, and there is no other.  By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’  Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him.  In the Lord all the offspring of Israel shall be justified and shall glory.”  (Isaiah 45:22-25)

I have learned these lessons the hard way! —there are no exceptions to God’s Word and the tenets by which He has called us to live. …nor His principles in governing our thoughts.  Only when we stand on the heights of eternity will we grasp the majesty of our Creator’s sovereignty and recognize that His hand truly was directing the course of history.  I am blessed as I have gotten older, to see just how good and how faithful God is to those who love Him, and to the broken of this world.  Trusting Jesus really is the best course for our lives!

 

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Fractured Relationships

No doubt about it, I love the holidays! …the music, the movies, the food, the festive atmosphere—all of it!  But mostly I love being with family and friends.  Of course, some of the demands and schedules get a little harrowing, but for the most part, the upsides outweigh the downsides.

Mostly.

I don’t know if that is true for everyone, though; because for some, the holiday season often hides some dark threads weaving through thoughts, emotions, and relationships.  Sometimes expectations and personal history cast dark shadows over those moments that could hold the most joy for us. 

I still feel the pain as my thoughts cried out to God recently, “Why can’t we forgive?”  “Why do we have to hold on to offenses even during one of the most sacred times of the year?”  “Why can’t we let go of what divides us for just one day out of the year?”

I think we have the notion that, since we cannot accept the behavior of another or our perception of what they did to us, we cannot let that person into our lives for even a day.  Seems to me that belief is sourced either in self-righteousness or unforgiveness.  Unfortunately, both of those attitudes—self-righteousness (pride) and unforgiveness—are so much more easily recognizable in others instead of ourselves.

God has a few things to say about our attitudes; but to recognize sinful attitudes within our hearts, we need to humble ourselves before Him, allowing the Holy Spirit complete access to our souls.  “Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24) And we need to listen to hear what He has to say!

Writing this is difficult because I have struggled so much with my own heart attitudes.  I have been (painfully) self-righteous, pride does whisper into my thoughts, I have claimed to forgive and then turned around to gossip or condemn another in conversation.  Thank God for His grace and the Holy Spirit for faithfully alerting me to the “grievous” ways in my heart and leading “me in the way everlasting!” 

I cannot sit here and write, “Why can’t they forgive, why do they hold on to offenses?” without yielding my heart to God and inquiring, “Where have I not forgiven; where do I nurture offense?”  Or how many times have I whispered in my heart, “I am better than that,” and unconsciously thought, I am better than them. …or thought, “I am glad that I am not like them!” 

Although we are horrified by the attitudes and behaviors of the Pharisees, can we not honestly admit that at times our thoughts reflect the very same postures Jesus condemned?  We isolate ourselves from others – if not physically, then emotionally – when we become aloof from others by the judgments and criticisms we entertain: “The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’…  (Luke 18:11-12)

It is so much easier to visualize our worth through good works and through our good behavior, and condemn others for not living up to the imaginary standards we set for ourselves, or them, (which we ourselves quite often are unable to achieve—my judgment of other drivers is an excellent example of that…condemning another for not using his or her turn signals and then forgetting to use mine).

The apostle Paul admonished the Roman believers, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges.  For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” (Romans 2:1) My inclination is to immediately retort, “No I don’t!”  But God knows our hearts better than we know them ourselves and He says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?  ‘I the Lord search the heart and test the mind….’” (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

But it was when we were at our worst, in the depth of our sin, that Jesus reached out for fallen, broken humanity.  “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.  More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:8-11).

The best place for us to stand is far away from hypocrisy and, like the tax collector, bow our hearts before God. … “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:13-14).

The monumental difference between these two men is that one attempted to justify himself and the other was justified by God.

The is no legitimate excuse, no justification for self-righteousness or unforgiveness when Jesus so freely extends reconciliation to us!

Instead, let us heed the wise counsel of the Holy Spirit:

“Let no corrupting 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.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  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 4:29-32)

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Like Jesus

I thought, mistakenly so, that when the presidential campaign in the U.S. was in our rear-view mirror, the vitriol, the accusations, the fear and fearful predictions would rapidly abate.  Didn’t happen.  In fact, if anything, the anger, hatred, and fear have greatly escalated.  Decades of political process are being tried in the courts of opinion and for many, coming up as a broken system.

Can we ever be the “United States of America”?  It certainly doesn’t look or sound like it!  I couldn’t possibly take on the many issues dividing us; most people are impassioned about their opinions, making it virtually impossible to interject scriptural perspectives if one is not inclined to receive them.  The apostle Paul wrote this to the church at Corinth: “We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word…and even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing.  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2-4).  Scripture also reminds us that, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12).

It is easy to proclaim that certain individuals are the source of our nation’s problems and possible (in some minds) demise.  However, without a common moral foundation supporting us, or unity of purpose and understanding of justice to serve as a compass to guide this country, there is little hope for America to be united. 

And it is so easy to forget the spiritual war raging around us in the unseen realm when we are inclined to engage in arguments to support our views as Christians.  Scripture counsels, “He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, and he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself.  Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.  Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:7-10).

When Eve stood gazing at the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, an aspect of satan’s deception was the enticement to be like God—she looked at the tree and viewed its desirability to make her wise, and she longed for a wisdom equal to, but apart from, God.  The apostle John referred to the wisdom offered by demons and rampant in this world “the pride of life.”  “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).

If one is not serving the God of heaven, he or she is held captive by the devil and constrained to do his will (2 Timothy 2:26).  Pride is a huge prison for many people as it was also satan’s pride that cast him from the presence of God.  Interestingly, Ezekiel speaks this of satan: “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor” (Ezekiel 28:17).  It is in pride that wisdomi becomes corrupt!  –The tricky thing about pride is that it is so much easier to see in others than it is to recognize it in ourselves!

God’s wisdom is much different from the wisdom of this world: “Let no one deceive himself.  If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.  For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their own craftiness’; and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.  Therefore, let no one boast in men” (1 Corinthians 3:18-21).

Sometimes I feel baited into responding to “discussions” or the assumptions (and accusations) about choices Christians should or should not make in the political arena.  Sometimes I am frustrated by the prognostications of the fearful and the media manipulators.  Sometimes I am angry at the suppositions some make of my character and my faith in Jesus.  Always I am perplexed by those who use the name of Jesus, who profess to be Christians, but also think that it is morally acceptable to destroy the lives of unborn children.

It is inexplicable to me just how intensely I am drawn to the controversy raging in this country—and I think many people feel compelled to join in, which is a problem, I believe, for Christians.  The enemy and his agents come at us with anger, hatred, and intimidation, and exposing ourselves to his lies makes us vulnerable to them.  His strategies rarely change, though; he initially attacks the moral character of God (and His children), and he proffers worldly (which is demon-inspired) wisdom, and tempts us with a sense of entitlement.

Our best response is to “…lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us…and run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2); and to pray that we, as God’s church, will “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that [we] may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Colossians 1:9-12).

Winning arguments is not at all important in this world held captive by the forces of darkness; however, being like Jesus and extending His life, His compassion, and His ministry is essential.  “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.  And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?  My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.  And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him….this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another as He gave us commandment” (1 John 3:16-19, 23)

 

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A Spirit of Fear

“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  (2 Timothy 1:7).

Some days I spend way too much time on social media – I need to do something about that!  However, spending a little time scrolling through the various posts has proved to be quite informative!

By far, the most intense post-election emotion that I’ve been reading about is fear; and that fear has been a springboard for anger, hatred, rebellion, and violence.  For Christians, it is essential to recognize the spiritual component behind fear (“spirit of fear”) and respond as warriors equipped for battle:

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” [That’s us! We are his brethren, and we have a responsibility to “be strong in the Lord!”]  “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual host of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10-12)

It has been easy to blame individuals and the media for misinformation, bias, and misrepresentations—and for igniting tremendous fear and violent responses—without acknowledging the spiritual forces motivating the divisions and hatred.  Scripture lays out for us many characteristics of demonic activity:

Deceit, Fraud, Enemy of all Righteousness, Perverting the straight ways of the Lord:Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, ‘O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?’” (Acts 13:9-10).

Unrighteousness, Hatred, Jealousy: “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.  For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother.  And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.” (1 John 3:10-12)

Murder, Absence of Truth, Telling Lies: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44)

We, as Christians, need to suit up for battle and take our fight to where the war is being waged—in the unseen, the “heavenly” realms.  We can start by taking control of our own thoughts: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

Arguing with people is fruitless (as many have discovered by now), particularly with those who refuse to accept the lordship of Jesus Christ.  The apostle Paul wrote this to Timothy, “If anyone…does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.  From such withdraw yourself.”  (1 Timothy 6:3-5)

And: “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.  And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:23-26)

Wow!  Think about this—those who lie, who oppose the truth are captives of the enemy and are commissioned by him to do his will; they are his spokesmen, his press secretaries, if you will.

And when we give place to the demons of fear, anger, or rage, we become their slaves— “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey…?” (Romans 6:16)

As Christians, we must confront the enemy where he is, with the armor given us for warfare: “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:13-18)

Paul also counseled Timothy, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Talking about problems and complaining are so much easier to do that praying—but God calls us to pray, to “fear not”, and to trust Him.  Let us raise a banner to God in the midst of the battle!  Let cry out to Him in faith—let us worship Him who is the author and finisher of our faith!  And let us pray for His kingdom to come, and for His will to be done on earth!

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