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.

You’ll never want anything ever again!

Skimming over verses of the Bible without stopping to think about them is easy. Especially when we have a favorite verse coming up later in the chapter. I’ve been guilty of it countless times, and I’m sure you have been too. Just today, the Lord reminded me of a verse I’ve been skipping over for a while.

Psalm 23 is a favorite of many. It is very common to memorize this psalm in Sunday school or elsewhere. It is a very picturesque psalm with deep meaning. The ultimate truth in the Psalm is that God takes care of us. The first verse of the psalm says, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

I’d just like to stop there and expound on that.

God is the one that shepherds, guides, and protects us. No one else. Even when we are under the protection of a government, organization, or even our parents, they are not the ones that look after us. God looks after us. He alone is our shepherd. He alone takes care of us, and always will.

Secondly, we will not want. This isn’t like the fleshly childish desire of wanting something, but it is the state of needing something. We will not lack any thing. You, as a Christian, will never be in desperate need of anything. Nothing at all. God takes care of you. That means in war- He takes care of you. In sickness- He takes care of you. In drought- He provides for you. In whatever state you are- He is providing for you.

This is a timeless truth that endures no matter what. God takes care of His own. You shall not want.

You may be thinking, “But I remember that time when I needed ______.” In all honesty, no matter what you think you needed, you probably didn’t need it at all. Paul went through many hardships, but in Philippians 4 he says, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Paul learned that his needs weren’t that great after all. He always had what he needed. In all that he experienced, God took care of Him.

So I challenge you, whatever situation you may be in, or whatever crisis may seem imminent, put your faith in God. He takes care of us. He took care of David. He took care of Paul. He took care of thousands of His children throughout the ages. And He will take care of you.

As you walk in this life, seek the Lord first, and you will find that you will never want for anything.

“The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.” – Psalm 34:10

When you don’t need to know

Little kids want to know everything. They are always asking why, or how much, or how much longer, where did this come from, when will we do this, etc. Sometimes their questions are relevant. Sometimes they are not. It’s the same with all of us grown ups. We can ask a lot questions: some that need answering, and some that aren’t so pressing.

When we read the Bible, we can gain so much information. There is a multitude of knowledge woven into God’s Holy Book and we can gain much from any study of the Word. However, if we approach the Bible without a proper attitude and understanding, we can waste a lot of time. Yes, I said you can waste time when studying your Bible. It’s true!

In John 20:30, we can read, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:” Think about that, God left a whole bunch of information out of the Bible. Jesus did so much, and we only have a small portion of what He did. Why would God leave so much out? Well, the next verse gives us insight. It says, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

It’s quite simple, God wanted us to have life. He wanted us to believe on Him. And that’s why He ordained the Bible to be written. The Bible was written that we might be saved, and that we might continue on living a full life with God.

The Bible was not written to satisfy our every curiosity. There is much profit in studying God’s word, but every once in a while we should examine our method and motive for studying it. Sometimes our questions aren’t relevant. Questions perhaps like, “I wonder what the sop was at the last supper?” “What color were Jesus’ eyes?” “Who are the two witnesses in Revelation 11?” Obviously God didn’t tell us. There might be a reason why. It’s fun to wonder now and then, but we don’t necessarily need to spend exorbitant amounts of time theorizing about what God found proper not to tell us.

In Daniel 12, God tells Daniel many things. Daniel asks God how everything will end and God says, “Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.” Just like we can, Daniel asked out of curiosity, and not out of a desire for holiness and maturity. There is nothing wrong with being curious, but sometimes it can be wiser to simply use the information revealed to live a righteous life.

God knew what He was doing when He wrote the Bible, and He knew what He was doing when he left information out. He gave us more than enough to live an abundant life. Let us not fritter away our time away wistfully wondering about information God considered unnecessary. I challenge you as I challenge myself: Let us take what God has given us and allow it to refine us into who we need to be for Him.

We can never exhaust the supply of wisdom to be found in the Scriptures, but we can strive to gain as much as we can in the few short hours given to us. Lets use the Word to gain Holiness and Glorify God!

Source of contention

Have you ever known a group of bickering people? Bicking people who complain and argue and fight can be found everywhere. They are in public, in church, even in our homes. If we are honest, most of us could say that we find the phenomenon of complaining and bickering in ourselves.

But what is the source of complaining and bickering and fighting? People complain because they don’t have something. They fight because they don’t have something. But the question is, do they truly need what they lack? Do we truly require what we desire to do God’s will?

James 4:1 tells us where contention and bickering come from. It says, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” Lust is the source of contention and bickering and fighting. Unnatural and sinful desire.

Think about that for a moment. Realize: every time you complain or fight or bicker you are responding improperly to a desire in your life. Think about some bickering children who are fighting over a toy. They have placed their desire for a toy over their desire for righteousness and peace. Think about adults who are agitated about sitting in traffic. They have placed their desire to “arrive” at their destination on time, over their desire for righteousness, meekness, and peace- and ultimately over their relationship with God.

Now, there are times when we must take a stand and have some confrontation. But those instances are not usually regular occurrences. Most of the time, when we are fighting, we are fighting for our own selfish reasons and our own lustful desires. Let us ask the Lord to help us righten our desires, so they are aligned with God’s will. Let us not bicker and fight by reason of our lust. Let us work together to build a legacy of peace and unity in the body of Christ!

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” – Philippians 2:3

“Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” – Ephesians 4:3

When God will do it

Have you ever thought of something that you wanted. You desired this material thing, promotion, status in life, position, relationship, etc. You believed it was God’s will for you to have this good thing. Not only did you believe that it was God’s will, but you were fixed on the idea that you must work to gain this ________.

I’m speaking generically, but please, visualize something. Think of something good you believe or know God wants you to have.

Now, remember, God desires this for your life. That’s why you desire it, right? Because you want only God’s will for your life. So if God desires this too, do you think He’s going to let you battle the whole world for it? No, of course not. God has everything in His control. So there are only a few reasons why you don’t have what God wants for you.

1) God doesn’t want it for you now. Think of the Israelites. They spent hundreds of years in bondage, and yet God had promised them a homeland. I honestly don’t believe God has their land in store for them yet. David was anointed king. God obviously wanted Him king, but it would be several years before God brought that to pass. Sometimes, it’s not the right time.

2) You haven’t prepared yourself for the blessing. Think of the Israelites again. They wandered in the desert without the promised land for forty years. Why? Because they had not believed God. God wanted to bless them, but they couldn’t be blessed because they were spiritually unprepared.

Now, remember those two conditions. If God doesn’t want something for you right now, or you haven’t prepared yourself for His blessing, and you try to get it, then you’re fighting God. It’s going to be a struggle. And you’re going to lose. God will either refuse to give it to you, or He’ll give it to you and you will see why He didn’t want to give it to you in the first place. Either way, you’re wasting energy God could be using elsewhere, and it will end badly.

It would have been vain for David to lead a revolt against Saul. Why? Because God wasn’t leading Him to. And it would have been completely disastrous for Joshua to lead the Israelites to war with the Canaanites after God had condemned them to wilderness wandering because of their unfaithfulness.

Both of those situations would have ended badly, and so would yours if you were to try to take God’s will into your own hands.

God’s will doesn’t need a well planned out flesh move. We live in the Spirit and we must walk in the Spirit. We must be obedient to God and be willing to do anything. If God requires hard work, we will do it. If God requires character training, we will allow Him to train our character. If God requires patient waiting, we will patiently wait. We don’t have to fight for His will, He will give it to us when we are obedient.

So next time you think of something you believe God wants you to have, don’t stress over it. No matter what it is, God could give it to you today if He wanted. All you must do is obey Him now, and when the time comes, you will be in position to receive it when it comes.

Psalm 37:4-5 says, “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”

Notice that God brings it to pass. You don’t earn it, and you don’t fight for it. God brings it in His time, when you are obedient to Him.

Isn’t that comforting?

How hard is it for those who trust in ______

In Mark 10:23-25, Jesus gives an exclamation to the effect that it is hard for rich people to go to heaven. Then he explains himself, He says, "how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!"(Mark 10:25) This passage gives the idea that when man has a lot he can trust in, he feels that he doesn’t need to trust in God.

Using the principle of the text, I wish to draw a different application. The principle is this: those who have more, find it easier to trust in what they have rather than what God has to offer. So my question to you is, What do you have?

Perhaps you are a great writer, a great musician, a great athlete, a good thinker, a problem solver, a skillful procrastinator, whatever you have in your possession. Think of that trait. Now, do you ever brag about it? Do you rely on it? When things get tough, do you trust in it? Perhaps you are following God’s will for your life, but behind the scenes in the secrecy of your heart you are thinking, "Well, if this doesn’t work out, I know I can _______."

Just as it was hard for those to trust in riches to enter the kingdom, it can be hard for skillful or talented people to rely on God for their strength. I challenge you today, examine yourself. Is there something you are trusting in? Is there a task in which you rely on your talents instead of God?

Trusting in ourselves is foolish. Trusting in our talents is equally as foolish. God gave us our ability. God gave us our being. We wouldn’t exist without His deciding to create us. We must trust God to help us work for Him. Don’t ever assume, "I got this." You are a frail human being. Trust in the Almighty Jehovah, and you will find that He can do more through you, than you could ever do by yourself.

"For without me ye can do nothing." – John 15:5

Your life may be scheduled, but your acknowledgment is not

It’s easy to get caught up in your daily tasks. Go here, work there. Our lives are often scheduled. Our lives are dictated to us a by a predetermined plan. Many occupations allow freedom of scheduling, but many do not. If you have a schedule that seems unchanged or if you determine your daily schedule, this devotional is for you.

Proverbs 3:5 tells us, Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. This verse is quoted often by Christian leaders and teachers. It’s a great verse to memorize and live by. The next verse, however, is equally as challenging. It says, In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

The Hebrew word for acknowledge simply means to know. So, in our english it would be, In all your ways, know Him. The word can mean discern, distinguish, perceive, and others. In short, God wants us to have Him as our focus throughout the day. We are to know Him.

Have you ever had a situation when a person walks in a room and suddenly everything’s different. Their presence alone changed the atmosphere. As soon as they walked in, conversation changed course, or people smiled, or grew happy, or people grimaced, or someone fled from the room in terror. You understand my meaning. The prescence of of certain people, change our actions and the atmosphere in general.

It’s the same with God. When we invite the thought of Him in our lives, our lives will be changed. Our life will be changed by the presence of Christ. When you invite God’s presence into your life, your worries cannot remain. God will comfort you by Himself and you will know a peace that can only be known by Him.

But let’s take another look at the Scripture. God promises that if we think on Him (know Him) throughout the day, he will direct our paths. Going back to our original thoughts, whether our lives are scheduled down to the detail or not, God can still direct us. There is a difference between accomplishing something through Christ’s power and simply getting it done because you must. I challenge you, acknowledge Him. Think on Christ. Ask Him to be a driving force in your week. God has the power to direct your paths in ways you could have never imagined. You will find your work a joy and your tasks to be a ministry. Won’t you acknowledge Him today?

Unto Blood?

Imagine a great battle, where people line each sides of a field. They draw swords, and charge. As they meet each other, they begin to fight, but then one army retreats. They leave the field in defeat and say that the battle was too hard. When you inspect the troops however, you find that not a single soldier has a scratch on them. They are alright except for a few bumps and bruises.

What would you think of an army that retreated only because they were uncomfortable in a fight? Would you write of their bravery in songs of poems? Would you tell others of their greatness. I think not.

Most likely, we would scoff at such wimps who would call themselves men. We would not praise such people. Those who selflessly sacrifice for the cause, those people are worthy of praise.

We may think little of an army that retreats without any real cause, but in many ways, our Christian life can probably be viewed the same way. How often do we retreat from our daily spiritual battle because the cross of Christ is uncomfortable to bear? Hebrews 12:4 says, Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. What is an army that retreats before even one of their men looses a drop of blood? Not many wars have been won by such a noncommittal group.

And yet, how can we expect to be triumphant in our spiritual warfare unless we are willing to commit wholly to the cause of our Savior?

The war that faces the Christian is not hard. Christ says, Resist the devil, and He will flee from you. – James 4:7

I challenge you, you are in a battle against sin, take it seriously. Have a warfare mentality when it comes to unrighteousness. Don’t give up on your battle because things get a little difficult or fighting your flesh isn’t fun.

Make a conscious decision to commit to standing for righteousness and holiness. Secure the thought in your mind that there is no other option. And you will find your impulses weaker, and you will find that Satan will be fleeing from you. Never forget, God is with you, and the battle is His. All that remains to you is to make a decision to stand.

Won’t you?

But it runs deeper . . .

We seem to judge ourselves by our actions. We measure our spirituality by what we do, how we act, how much self-control we exhibit in a stressful situation, etc. Living in a physical world, it is sometimes hard to discard the physical measuring device and apply a spiritual standard to our lives.

The Israelites had exactly the same problem. One specific man asked Jesus which commandment was the greatest. I would imagine that this man was thinking of actions. He probably was imagining what was the greatest thing to do or refrain from doing. Perhaps he was thinking of "Thou shalt not kill," or Thou shalt not commit adultery." Jesus’ view was different. It’s not the action that is the greatest fault, it’s the underlying state of the heart.

Jesus’ said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." Jesus said that the greatest commandment, the most important commandment to fulfill, is that you love God. Love? Let that sink in. Do you love God? "Yes," you might say, "I obey Him, I put Him first." But do you love Him?

We might view an outward action as the height of sin. Murder! That’s a horrible sin. We could think that murder is the height of sin, but it runs deeper. The sin is greater than the sinful action. The motive is sin. The filthy thoughts of hate are sins. The allowing of the heart to fester in anger is sin. The prideful focus on personal desires instead of sacrificial ones is sin. Murder is simply the fruit of all that wickedness that was rotting the heart of the person who committed the act.

As a fellow child of the King, I would exhort you. Don’t take pride in how much you have done. Or how much you have refrained yourself to do. Don’t evaluate yourself by how much you have "acted well." Remember Christ’s standard. Remember the greatest commandment. Though your faults are many, almost all of them, if not all, can be traced to the neglect of one command. Are making the decision to love God? Do you desire His pleasure above all else? I challenge you, seek to love God, more than anything else. You will find that your actions will naturally conform you your innermost desires.