All posts by Rich

Revenge

SnidelyDon’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.” Wait for the Lord to handle the matter. (Proverbs 20:22)

There’s an old saying, “I don’t get mad, I just get even.”  I think that sometimes I’m a little guilty of both getting mad and getting even.  I certainly don’t like it when somebody hurts me or hurts a loved one.  I can come up with the best plans for revenge if you just give me a little time (cue the evil laugh).  Sometimes, I just react without thinking and, afterwards, justify it by saying to myself, “Well, they deserved it for what they did to me…”

The problem with the whole “revenge” mentality is that it is a bit shortsighted.  When I take things into my own hands, I’m assuming that God isn’t going to do anything about it.  But what if God has plans that are different from my “revenge” plans?  What if God has a way of working things out in the other person’s life that are more aimed at getting them to change than making them suffer?  If I was the original offender, I know I’d wish that God dealt with me gently rather than painfully.

Choosing to not “get even” doesn’t mean that I necessarily stand in the way of the other person experiencing the consequences of their actions. Sometimes “consequences” are exactly what God ordered.  But the consequences should not be about my “getting even”.  Getting mad or getting even?  I hope I learn to just say “no” to both.

“Misrepresentation”

False Prophets.  It’s a pretty serious problem in the Bible.  The concept is that someone is claiming to speak for God when, in fact, God did not send them, and what they are saying is not true.

I think I get why God gets frustrated with false prophets.  Every once in a while I hear that someone has claimed to state my position on a certain subject when, in fact, they don’t have a clue as to what I think.  Don’t you get frustrated when someone misrepresents you?

Jeremiah had a problem with false prophets.  The prophet Hananiah was trying to tell the people of Jerusalem that everything was going to be fine when, in fact, the city was about to be wiped out.  In Babylon, Ezekiel faced a similar situation.  The false prophets were telling people that they were fine when, in fact, they needed to change.  The result of misrepresentation is that people end up doing the opposite of what God wants them to do.  “Because with lies you have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and you have strengthened the hands of the wicked, so that he does not turn from his wicked way to save his life. (Ezekiel 13:22)

When we speak about the Lord, those that are doing the right things ought to be encouraged by us.  Those who are doing the wrong things ought to be challenged to change.  When we talk about the Lord, be sure to get the message right.

Depressed

Depression sure is a miserable state to live in.  It seems that everything tastes bad when you’re depressed.  It seems that everyone is wrong when you’re depressed.  There are lots of reasons why people fall into the depths of sadness.  Sometimes it comes from the guilt of a sin you can’t break free from.  Sometimes it’s because of a “perfect storm” of circumstances that keep going from bad to worse.  Some of us almost seem wired for depression.

The Bible is filled with folks who struggled through this “dark night of the soul”.  Moses was quite upset at the unappreciative people God had placed him with.  Elijah hid in a cave and declared that he alone was left to serve God.  And then there’s Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet”.  If anyone ever deserved to be depressed, it was Jeremiah.  Not only were the people around him rebellious against God, Jeremiah was there to witness the destruction of the nation.  And though the book of Lamentations is mostly about Jeremiah’s grief over the situation, it also contains a ray of hope as Jeremiah writes, “This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21–23).

It is possible to let go of your depression, even if for a few minutes.  Think on God’s love.  He has NOT forsaken you.  He has NOT left you.  And that my friend is a good thing.

Navigation

It’s not hard to get off course.  Sometimes when you are on a long road trip, missing one exit can put you miles away from your destination.  If an airplane flying across the Pacific is off course by just one degree, it’s not going to land in Hawaii.  The ancient mariners used fixed stars to determine their position and set their course.  As Christians, we have some fixed points that help us navigate this journey through life.  Peter gives us a spiritual “north star” to navigate by when he writes, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22 ESV).

Our “north star” is love, and Peter’s navigation instruction works like this:  As we live our lives, we are supposed to be learning about how to obey the Lord.  As we obey the Lord, our souls are purified.  But there’s a goal to our obedience—to cultivate “sincere” brotherly love.  Obedience without love is liable to go off course.  “Sincere” love is love that isn’t covered up or an act.  Sincere love is sure and steady.  And as we are learning to point our obedience towards a sincere love, we are supposed to do something – we are to love “earnestly” or “fervently”.  We learn to love for the purpose of loving.  It’s all about love.

So which way is your ship sailing?  Are you on course?  Sometimes loving people can result in hurt, so sometimes we want to quit.  But love is a good thing.  Love is our goal.

Weeding

When I was a kid, I sometimes was given the chore of weeding in the yard.  As a young kid, I learned that there are some pretty easy shortcuts you can take when weeding.  Just grab the tops of the weeds, pull off the leaves, and it looks like you’re all done … until next week, when the weed has grown back stronger than ever.  My mom taught me how to use a weeding tool to dig out the roots.  And the most amazing thing happens when you pull a weed out with its roots – it doesn’t grow back.

The writer to the Hebrews has some great advice for us weekend gardeners, “looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:15).

The bitterness that results from not forgiving others is one of the hardest things to deal with in my heart.  Sometimes I tell myself that the thing they did to me was just too painful for me to simply “let it go”.  If I let it go, they are going to get away with it.  Yet as I cultivate that bitterness, the scraggly leaves of a new weed appear in my life.  I might think that I’m the only one suffering from bitterness, but the truth is that everyone around me suffers as well. When you don’t forgive your spouse, your kids will pay for it.  Not directly, mind you, but they will pay.  You are so caught up in your bitterness that you won’t even see it.  Do yourself a favor.  Do those around you a favor.  Forgive.  Take it out by the root.  Let it go.

Meaty Stuff

Occasionally I get comments about whether or not the morning sermon was “meaty” or not.  This is sometimes meant to criticize the lack of depth to the message, or the over-abundance of my ever present bad jokes.  Sometimes the comment is meant as a compliment.  But to be honest, I think the concept of “meat” or “milk” in a sermon is a bit misunderstood.  The concept comes from the writer of the Hebrews, who says, “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).

The concept of whether a message is “meaty” or not seems to depend more on the one listening than the one speaking.  No, that doesn’t excuse a sloppy job of sermon preparation. The “meat” of a message is something that will be received by those who are of “full age”, or mature.  What determines whether or not you are “mature”?  Maturity isn’t about winning the latest round of Bible Trivia.  Maturity is determined by a life that has been “exercised” in the telling right from wrong – and doing what is right.  With physical exercise, I’m learning that the more you do it, the greater your abilities grow.  I can walk further than I was able to last year because I am learning to walk every day.  Learning to make the right choices in life works the same way.  The more I practice and make the right choices, the greater my capacity is for doing good. And that’s when I find myself eating “meat”.  Make mine top sirloin!

Self Control

The people that Titus worked with on the island of Crete were not known for their healthy lifestyles.  They had a reputation as people who indulged in everything to excess.  When Paul gives Titus instructions (Titus 2) on his ministry to the Cretans, one word stands out because Paul repeats it over and over.  Paul uses the same word for the old men, the old women, and the youth.  The Greek word sophron can be translated “live wisely”, “sensible”, “temperate”, “discreet”, and “sober-minded”.  I like the idea of “self-control”.  It has to do with the kinds of lives we live, and in particular, the kinds of works our lives produce.  Paul even encourages Titus to set the example:  “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity” (Titus 2:7 ESV).

My friends, the gospel of Jesus Christ does more than just bring us God’s forgiveness.  It also gives us a new way to live.  He gives us the power to live a different life, a life characterized by self-control.  God’s grace is all about “training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:12).  Self-control might come into play with your addictions, your emotions, your food, and even your thought life.  It starts with wise choices and ends with right actions.  The essence of self-control is this:  “You can do this”.  With God’s help you can.

Memory Lane

I think that every once in a while it’s not a bad thing to stop and look back, at least if you do it for the right reasons.  Apparently God thinks that an occasional jaunt down Memory Lane can be good for us as well.  Isaiah recorded God’s thoughts:  “Look to Abraham your father, And to Sarah who bore you; For I called him alone, And blessed him and increased him” (Isaiah 51:2). Written to a people who were going through a difficult time and facing an uncertain future, God encourages His people to take a moment and look back at the heritage they had in Abraham.  God gives three reasons for His people to look at Abraham.

First, God reminded His people that Abraham was all by himself when God called him (“called him alone”).  In Isaiah’s day, the nation was a little bit bigger than just one person.  They had grown quite a bit.  When you take your peek at the past, take time to realize how much you’ve grown.  You are not where you used to be.  You are not the same person who first came through the door of faith.  Second, God blessed Abraham.  God didn’t forsake Him, He blessed Him.  God isn’t planning on you just withering by the side of the road. God wants to bless you as well, just like Abraham.  Third, God increased Abraham.  He didn’t stay as one man, but would grow to become a great nation.  God has a future for you as well.  It’s a future where you might be stretched, but stretching brings growth.  Take a minute and look back.

Responding

As children, we had our ways of dealing with challenges in life.  It often involved running to mommy or daddy.  Sometimes it was our tears, sometimes it was a simply asking, “Help me mommy”.  As we grew into adults, most of us learned to develop slightly more complex ways of responding to challenges.

Often our first respond is through our various coping mechanisms.  It might be something relatively harmless, like reaching for a candy bar, a cigarette, or a quick trip to the mall.  Sometimes we cope through more harmful addictions like drugs, sexual misbehavior, or withdrawing from the world and spending the day in bed.  Coping mechanisms rarely solve anything, but we’ve told ourselves that this is what we need to survive.

Some of us are smarter than all of that and we devise spreadsheets, make lists, search the internet, or ask for advice on how to handle the challenge before us.  The “smart” responses are all fine things to do, but are they the best way to face a challenge?

Hezekiah was a king with serious problems.  I love the way he responded.  And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. (Isaiah 37:14)

Beloved, you may not need those coping mechanisms like you think you do.  It’s good to learn healthy problem solving skills.  It’s best to make God your first response.  Pray.  Let Him help.

Fashion Choices

So what are you wearing today?  Did you have to dress up for work?  Or is today a “casual” day?  How often do you take the time to plan your wardrobe for the day?  As Christians, it’s important that we put on the right “attire”, but the issue isn’t about the color or style of clothes, the issue is about attitudes.  Join me as we take a look at what’s in the wardrobe of attitudes.

First, there definitely is “unacceptable” attire when it comes to attitudes.  Paul tells us that we should not be “wearing” things like immorality, greed, anger, and lying.  If you have those kinds of things hanging in your closet, you ought to toss them in the trash.  And even if you discarded those attitudes yesterday, you may find them hanging in your closet today. Those are the attitudes that characterized our old lives, our lives before meeting Jesus.

When you accepted Christ, He gave you a new wardrobe.  Paul writes, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12–14 NLT)

So as you pick out your attire for the day ahead, choose wisely from that closet of yours.