Right desires, right conflict

Countless songs, articles, speeches, and books have been given about the stupidity of war. War is dumb. War is insane. War is useless. What is it good for? Our society, though it is secular, recognizes that war is often petty, useless, and completely damaging. We are quick and apt to point out the problems of wars between countries.

But what about wars between individuals?

We find ourselves in wars amongst ourselves all the time. That passive aggressive person at work you try to get back at. Road rage and wanting that parking space. Fighting with siblings, spouses, or parents. Fighting for our own selves. Warring for our pride, our wants, and our desires.

These should not be.

James 4:1 says, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?”

War and fighting usually come from lust. They come from unholy desires. Instead of giving everything to God, we desire to hold back something for ourselves.

But how then, you might ask, should we correct evil, or fight for right? War is not always wrong when it is fought against tyranny and wrongdoing.

And yes, you are right. Corrective action is needed with people and with nations. Sometimes discussion is necessary, and sometimes violence. All of this should come from a right desire. A desire to protect the helpless. A desire to promote justice. A desire to help someone live a better life.

When your desires are right and you are seeking peace and restitution, your conflict is correct. But when it comes from a desire to promote yourself over another person or in spite of them, your conflict is petty and useless.

War over lust, pride, and egos is worthless.

Conflict with right intentions is what we must seek.

Diversity in unity, found in Christ

Throughout our times we find much division. Just as any time in history the world is divided by all sorts of conflicts. Years ago, most of the world was divided by geography. People identified with the land they were born with. As time as gone on, we now identify more with religion, political ideas, food diets, health regiments, phone brands, hobbies and sports. Some of these divisions are petty and light-hearted, some run very deep and are the most malignant of divisions.

In Christ, we are one. Those who are Christians can gather with no sort of divisions between them. True, practicing Christians who love one another have no such wars or fightings among themselves. This really struck me when I was reading Galatians. In Galatians 2, Paul is speaking about false doctrine. He was preaching against some heresy that was in the church, specifically the preaching of following the old Jewish law.

In verse 3, he says, “But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:”

Paul was a Jewish  man and a Pharisee at that. He was the Jewish religious elite. He also was a Roman citizen. And he was preaching and traveling with Titus- who was Greek.

This wasn’t something that was necessarily spoken about, or mentioned a lot. In fact, it seemed perfectly natural, his only mentioning of it was because it was important to the conversation. Otherwise, it didn’t need to be mentioned. Christ had unified them, there was no need for discussion about their backgrounds or culture or race.

This is Christianity, this is true Christianity. Christ said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” John 13:35

It doesn’t mention nationality, it doesn’t mention race, it doesn’t mention politics. It just says “have love one to another”

If you have added anything else, you’re doing it wrong.

 

Be afflicted, and mourn

What comes to mind when you think of humility? Think of the actions or lifestyle of a humble person.

Is it graceful? Is it poised? Does it exhibit class and refinery?

I believe most of us would say yes to all those questions. Humility is the epitome of etiquette and grace, charm and affableness. Humility- putting others above oneself- is at the very core of politeness. People who exhibit humility are in every way leading the world in manners and conduct.

Humility is respectable.

Humility is graceful.

Humility is poised.

Humility is also commanded by God. In James we are told, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” James 4:10

Such a wonderful promise. Just before this promise we find another such comforting verse. It says, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” James 4:8

This verse really describes what is necessary in our lives. Drawing nigh to God, and cleansing and purifying ourselves. In between these verses is a verse that I often notice as overlooked.

It doesn’t sound pleasant, and it’s not such a wonderful comforting idea. But it is absolutely essential to understanding humility.

It says, “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.”

Take a moment and read that verse a second time.

Does that sound like the victorious Christian life? It may not, but it definitely is.

It probably doesn’t sound like a chapter of our lives we want put on display. Being afflicted, mourning, weeping- these are all things that are nothing close to pleasant. We would’t show that side of us to the public, we wouldn’t feel so happy about posting about that on social media.

 

In essence, the path to humility is frought with unpleasantness. It is far from picture perfect moments. It is a stranger to comforts and pleasant feelings. The path to humility is affliction (hard toil), is is weeping, and it is mourning.

The Bible tells us to Humble ourselves in sight of God.

We put that on plaques and signs in our home. Do we read it with joy and forget what it means? Humbling yourself in the sight of God is not something you can do without being changed. It requires surrendering your pleasant and happy thoughts, and getting down to see the filth that you really are.

Giving up your dignity.

Weeping over your sin.

It is for the moment grievous, but for all eternity is is supreme joy.

God says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”

If you are willing to mourn over your sin, and be afflicted over it; God will raise you up.

Won’t you humble yourself today?

Wake up and pray!

“FAILURE TO FOLLOW SIMPLE INSTRUCTIONS!!!”

The Chief Petty officer screamed at a cadet. I was glad I wasn’t him. This was the third time he was repeating that phrase. Someone in the company had messed up something excruciatingly simple. I was so glad it wasn’t me. I remember hearing that phrase all through the military youth boot camp I was a part of. Over and over they repeated it. It stuck with me- to this day. How simple our lives would be if we followed the simple instructions we are given.

Have you ever been told to do a specific thing- and then you do the opposite?

Your teacher: “Make sure you study hard.”  You: *Don’t study*

Your boss: “Don’t be late to this meeting”     You: *Come late*

Dentist: “Brush your teeth!”  You: *don’t brush*

Being human can be difficult. But we don’t have to make it more difficult. A lot of times we know exactly what we need to be doing- and we don’t do it. This leads to all sorts of issues we never had to face otherwise. We knew what was needed. Why didn’t we just do it?

In Matthew 26 we find just such an occasion. Jesus tells His disciples to watch and pray. And that word watch, means to stay awake and to be awake. So he literally says to them, “Stay awake and pray with me.”

The reason?

So they wouldn’t fall into temptation.

If you know the story of the disciples in Gethsemane, you know they all fell asleep- more than once. Jesus came back to find them sleeping – three different times. Later on, when the temptation came, they all fell. They ran away from Jesus like scared rabbits. They denied Him and were in fear for their lives, instead of standing in faith.

All because they didn’t follow simple instructions.

A lot of our lives are like this. How much temptation of lust, pride, fear, and selfishness could we avoid if we simply would remain spiritually awake and pray. I mean, when’s the last time you struggled with self control immediately after genuinely praying and studying God’s word? It’s kinda hard right?

Isn’t it interesting how the Christian life is so simple. Pray. Humble yourself. Ask God to teach you. Pray some more. Meditate on God’s word. Study the scriptures. Encourage one another.

Nothing is that hard. Nothing requires exhaustive study and contemplation.

And yet, like the disciples, we struggle.

I challenge you, whatever simple things you are failing to do. Find them, and do them.

Watch and pray.

Stay awake and pray.

Don’t let your life take whatever course is comfortable.

Stand up. Stay awake. Pray.

You will avoid so many struggles, if you do.

And also much cattle

I don’t know about you, but other than wishing my dog would be in heaven, I always imagined that the animals were pretty unimportant. Yes, you can call me heartless, but I always seemed to think that since the animals didn’t have souls (or so I think) that they were just as unimportant as the rocks or anything else in the landscape.

The Bible teaches us differently. On several occasions, God mentions the idea that He values animals.

One classic example is Matthew 10:29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.” God speaks of sparrows, an animal that we do not regard worth much at all, and God says that He notices every time one dies. The King of the universe notices when a bird dies. That’s powerful.

Another time, God is speaking to Jonah about Nineveh. He says, “And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?”

God doesn’t want to destroy 120,000 people if He doesn’t want to. And did you catch the last part- almost like it was thrown in at the end? He didn’t want to destroy the cattle. God cared about the herds of cattle as well as the people.

In proverbs 12, we find, “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” I think in this verse we find the summary and the application of this thought. As a god-fearing person, we should treat animals with respect.

Yes, God created them for us to use and enjoy, but we should not use our authority and dominance for cruelty. Christians should be at the forefront of many causes for treating animals with respect. I’m not speaking of refraining from eating meat, which was allowed and commanded in many places(1, 2, 3, 4), but there is a decency with recognizing that animals do have worth. And not just to us, but to God as well.

Animals should be treated with kindness. It’s one way we show our respect for God and His creation.

I challenge you, take a moment to consider if there are ways you can honor God more but treating the lives of His creatures with more kindness or respect.

A Christian in motion . . .

If you roll a ball on the floor, it will eventually stop. If you take your foot of the pedal while you’re on the highway, your car will slow down. If you grab your sled in the winter and go speeding down that snow covered hill, when you reach the bottom, you will stop.

It seems like nature is fighting against you with friction. If you try to move in a direction, friction makes it difficult, and eventually makes you stop.

It is interesting to note, that our spiritual lives are not this way. In our spiritual lives there is no standing still, and there is no friction. We are constantly moving, towards serving God or towards serving sin.

There is no in between, there is no fence, and contrary to what many might say, there is no gray area. There is service to the King, and there is rebellion.

If we move towards sin, it pulls us in. I once heard it said that sin keeps you longer than you want to stay and costs more than you want to pay. If you serve sin, you relinquish control over your life. Liars find themselves in perpetual lies. Thieves rarely decide they’ve had enough. And anyone who has had an addiction knows that the hold of sin and destructive behavior is very strong. Once you take a step towards sin, you’ve signed a blank check, an open contract with the terms and conditions not filled in.

If you move towards Christ, it is the same. Obedience in one area leads to obedience in many. Once you surrender, you cannot help but be transformed. A true honest following of God will lead to ultimate transformation and blessing. God even helps you! In James, we are told, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.”

Did you catch that?

If you move towards God- He moves towards you. God will accelerate your intimacy and growth with Him when you initiate. In a sense, A christian in motion (towards God) will result in God in motion. (towards them) Isn’t that fascinating?

We learn also in the Scriptures, “he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Gal 6:8

The harvest is always bigger than the seed that is sown. And so it is with our actions.

Our actions may be small, but they can have enormous consequences- for good or ill.

So I ask you, Won’t you take some steps toward God today?

He is waiting, He loves you, He wants to make it easy.

And He promises to step toward you, if you do.

What does the Lord require?

I want you to imagine that you have a significant other that you’re telling how much you love them, and imagine you haven’t gone on a date with them for a few months, you barely call them- only when you need something, and you never do anything they ask you to do.

How long would that last?

How long would you stay if you were treated this way?

Probably not long for either question.

Love requires and demands evidence in every relationship. Words are not enough. Expensive gifts are not enough. Public declarations are not enough. It requires our heart.

It’s the same with God. He wants our hearts.

Psalm 51:16 says, “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

Matthew 5:18 says, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.”

Psalm 51:17 tells us, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

God wants us to love Him with our hearts. He wants us to care. He wants us to keep His love and commandments on our mind. It’s not enough for us to say we love Him. It’s not enough for us to give to the church. We have to mean it. Nothing in this world can substitute our wholehearted commitment to Him.

Commitment means obedience, commitment means prayer, commitment means thought put into your relationship.

You may have that special someone. And you may not be able to spend time with them right now. You may not be able to give them expensive gifts. You may not be able to take them on dates. But if they know that they have your heart (your commitment)- your relationship will last.

With God, you may not have many talents to give Him, you may not have the years to give Him just as a younger person could, and you may not have any special skills to offer.

God only wants your heart. He wants your love, your commitment, and your full obedience and reverence.

It doesn’t matter who you are, that you can give. That, you can always give.

“And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Deuteronomy 6:5

 

 

Thirty-eight years later

Everyone loves a good story! And everyone loves the action! The fights, arguments, climactic points. These form the key elements of the story. Settings, character building, and description are necessary, but they aren’t usually what we remember.

But our lives are not lived like stories. We don’t get to skip to the action, to the climax. Sometimes parts of out lives go on and on without resolution. Days, months, years, decades all pass, and we still wait for the solution.

So it was with the lame man in John 5. We are told that there was a pool in Bethesda where an angel would come down and “stir” the water. The first person in the water after the angel moved it, would be healed. We don’t know how often the angel came, but there were a great many people.

When Jesus passed by, he found a man who had been there a great while. By the end of the story, Jesus heals the man and he leaves joyfully.

Those are the main ideas. That’s the plot. That’s the climax and resolution.

If we skim the story, we miss out on little details. We lose sight of the reality that was that lame man’s. In verse 5, we learn, that the man had been lame for 38 years. It is half of a verse. Barely noticeable to us as readers. But I assure you that it meant a great deal to that man.

38 years of his life he had been lame.

38 years of struggle. 38 years of pain. Was he able to find work at all? Or did he just beg? Did he go hungry at times? How long had he waited at that pool? How many times had he tried to crawl using only his arms? How many people had he seen be healed at that pool while he was too slow to get in? How many nights had he cried himself to sleep wondering if his life had purpose? How many people mocked him for his infirmity? How many times did he wish he could walk?

38 years

years

38 years of his life

And we blow past it in half a sentence.

He spent all those years waiting for healing. Waiting for the power of God. At the end of those years he was still by the pool. He hadn’t given up.

Did you catch that?

After 38 years he hadn’t lost hope.

I challenge you, whatever you are going through in your life, whatever you need God’s power for, whatever you are praying for – Don’t. Give. Up.

Seek God, pray, ask for His intervention, and don’t give up. This man’s story was written down so that 2000 years later we could be encouraged. He waited patiently, and God used his life as a testimony.

Won’t you stand strong and wait for God’s power in your life today?

tomorrow?

Or for as long as it takes?

I promise you it will be worth it.

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9

Don’t look at your feet!

 

Sweat bands, running shoes, compression clothing

Electrolyte enhanced drinks and orange slices.

It’s a race! The runners take off from their marks and begin to flash towards the finish line.

Hebrews 12 compares our Christian life to a race. In this race it tells us we should run, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;”

He’s the author and the finisher.

I know for myself, I forget the finisher part. I think over and over, that God shows me what’s wrong, and then its just up to me to fix it. But this isn’t the case. The thing is, once I decide to fix it- with wonderful intentions of course, I’ll begin to look at my actions, attitudes, feelings, wrongdoing, and whatever else I can find. I look to my own self so much, I stop looking at God.

That’s no way to win in the Christian life. You don’t look at your hands when you shoot a basket. You don’t look at your legs when you kick a goal. You don’t look at your feet when you run a race. You don’t look at yourself when you live your Christian life.

It may seem right to try to deduce what went wrong, where the wrong thinking was, how you got to be so out of line. Sometimes examining these things is very helpful, but we must remember it is not the solution to the problem.

 

God is the solution.

No matter how hard we think about our problems, we can’t fix them. We need God to transform us. We need God at the center of our lives. If we will look to Him, and focus on His plan for us, and His will for us; we will probably be surprised how easily things work out.

Putting God at the center of our lives, humbly asking Him to change us is the only way to ensure genuine lasting change in our lives.

Won’t you do that today?

Do you run?

There’s a small list of people who went to Jesus in Mark chapter 5. They each had a request. They needed healing, for themselves or someone close to them. They wanted freedom or redemption. Whatever it was, they wanted the power of Christ in their lives. And of course, Christ gave it to them.

There was a ruler in the synagogue who’s daughter was sick. There was a woman who had a major illness. And there was a man possessed of demons.

Each one of these stories has an essence of desperation in them. The man’s daughter was literally on her deathbed. The woman couldn’t be healed by any of her doctors. The demon possessed man has a horrible quality of life. Each one of these people came to Christ in their desperation.

The ruler of the synagogue was powerful, and had multiple servants. But he came himself. He counted God’s power to be something that was personal, and worthy of His full attention. We know the woman must have been weak from her blood loss, and the crowd thronged Christ. Fighting her way through must have taken every ounce of her strength. And she considered it worth the fight. The man possessed of demons ran. He ran to Jesus. He knew he was in a miserable state, and he wanted to remain tormented no longer. He wasted no time coming to Christ.

Put each of these portraits together. What do you have?

Coming to Christ needs to be personal.

Coming to Christ needs to be worth the fight.

Coming to Christ needs to be first priority.

Do you consider your relationship with Christ to be all that? Do you give Him all of your attention? All of your effort? All of your urgency?

I would submit to you, your relationship with Christ must be all three. And you must count every deliverance worth all three. Are you addicted to something? Need deliverance? Do you count your deliverance worth all of these?

Do you succumb to temptation occasionally? Do you want to have victory? Do you count your victory worth all of these?

Are you apathetic in any area of your relationship with Christ? If you want victory, you must give Christ your full attention, your every effort, and your utmost urgency.

“For he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” – Hebrews 11:6