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.

When your friends arent there for you

I happens. You may be going through the worst time in your life, and your best friend doesn’t seem to care. They skip out on lunch, forget plans, never notice how down you are . . . They’re absorbed in themselves and they forget to care for you. In those moments, your response matters greatly. You can wallow in self pity and weakness, or you can rise above.

Jesus had his friends fail Him at the worst time in His life. And yet He still loved them. We found the account in Luke 22. Jesus is submitting His will to the Fathers. He is about to go to the cross to be crucified, and He is in great agony. He tells the disciples.

“And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.”

Did you notice how Jesus was concerned about them? He didn’t say “pray with me for moral support” No, He told them to pray for their own sakes. Even at the most agonizing part of His life, He was still caring for them.

In the next verses we see how much agony Christ was in. It says, “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” His body was under so much stress and torment from the inner turmoil He faced that His body was mixing blood with His sweat. Within the next few moments, He came back to the disciples.

“And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow,” They were sleeping for sorrow. Their own sorrow. They weren’t concerned about Him necessarily. The word sorrow could be translated exhaustion. They were tired, so they were sleeping. They had not a care that Christ was under so much pressure.

Christ’s response?

“Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.”

He was still concerned about them. He never faltered in His selflessness. He wanted them to live a life free of sin and failure to temptation. He loved them.

I don’t know how I would have reacted in such a situation. I probably would have felt hurt, betrayed, uncared for, or unloved. I might have become angry, or started and argument. But Christ? He was loving them. He had forgotten about Himself and His needs. He was completely fulfilled by the Father, ready to pour out Himself and love those around Him.

Is that how you are when friends betray you or disregard your struggles. I would ask you to pray and ask God to help you become a better friend. Ask Him to teach you how to love others even it would seem that you are the one who needs the most help or support. Don’t be a martyr, or be afraid to ask for companionship when you need it, but don’t allow other’s actions to bring you to selfishness.

“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Philippians 2:4

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.

Is your life a highway?

Traveling isn’t always pleasant. People get cranky, they get cramped, tired, and all the while you don’t want to stop because it’s going to make your trip longer. The greatest impediment to travel of course is not even tiredness, but road conditions. Construction, tiny winding roads that must be taken cautiously, and of course dirt and gravel roads.

I want you to think of the largest roadtrip you’ve ever been on. How long did it take? 6 hours, 18 hours, 40? I’m going to venture to say you probably used a highway or a parkway. You were probably using a smooth paved road that had been engineered to optimum highway speed and safety. The way had been prepared for you.

But what if it hadn’t?

What if you were on a dirt or gravel road? Or even a road filled with potholes?

How long would your trip have taken?

To give you some perspective: In the 1700s travel between New York and Boston took approximately 6 days. Around 1830, road conditions had improved to the point that the trip could be made in a day and a half.

Today, with modern transportation and roads, that same trip can be made in under 4 hours.

4 hours vs 6 days!

That’s a big difference!

I think such an illustration brings so much meaning to the verse in Proverbs where it is said, “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

In all your ways, keep God in your knowledge, and He will direct your paths. When we look at that word for direct, it literally means to make straight, to make level, to make smooth.

If you keep God in your knowledge, He will make the road of your life smooth.

I don’t know what God has planned for your life, and I don’t know where He will lead you. But I  do know it will all be easier if you allow Him to make your life’s road smooth. If you acknowledge Him.

Back in the 1700s it took 6 days to get from New York to Boston AND THERE WAS A ROAD! it just wasn’t smooth. Now it takes 4 hours.

The Christian life can be a highway- but only if you allow it to be. The Christian life can be something that is accelerated, smooth, and fast paced. But you have to acknowledge God. You have to seek His will. You have to follow after His direction. In ALL your ways.

Won’t you?

“Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.” – Psalm 5:8

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

 

 

You weren’t in the trenches

I was being tempted to waste my time, and the temptation was strong. Considering the position I found myself in, I gave up. Temptation being that strong, I just decided right then and there I wasn’t going to fight it. I know it sounds convoluted, but I found I could muster up enough strength to do my devotions first and I had sorta decided I’d waste my time doing purposeless things later.

In my devotions God spoke to me. I found new strength and will to fight my selfish desires, and I did not waste my time afterwards.

That day I learned a lot about myself. You see, I didn’t have the strength to make the decision to fight the temptation head on, but I knew where to find it. God strengthened me, and I escaped. But my whole attitude was off.

I had convinced myself that I was helpless against temptation once it became strong to a certain extent. It’s almost as if I had courage against little trials, but I couldn’t imagine putting in the effort to overcome big ones.

It reminds me of a verse in Hebrews 12, it says,

“Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.”

Think about that.

The word “resisted” there, means to line up for battle.

Imagine coming back from a fight, a battle, a war- without a scratch. Usually, if a person doesn’t have a scratch on them, they weren’t involved. Essentially, the writer of Hebrews is saying,

“You didn’t get in the trenches”

“You didn’t fight”

“You haven’t begun to fight”

I think that applies to many of us. A lot of times we sin because it’s convenient, or because we feel like it. The addiction is too strong, we say.

I would suggest to you, that we aren’t feeling the pain that our sin causes.

We’d rather live comfortably, than live purely.

Our sin is tolerable to us, our discomfort is not.

This is the crux of the issue.

I challenge you to follow after God. Make Him the ultimate need in your life. Don’t live comfortably with sin.

Resist. Unto blood.

 

 

When your ship is full

Have you ever wondered if God was watching? If God cared? Maybe you are wondering right now. Financial troubles, relationship problems, health issues, and loss can all make us lose sight of God and question Him. We can become angry with God, lose our hope in Him, feel frustrated with Him, and lose faith.

This is exactly how the disciples felt in Mark 4:35-38. They traveling by ship when a storm came upon them. They were no doubt working furiously to save themselves, but it was not enough. There’s a part of this story that can be overlooked very easily. In verse 37, it tells us that the ship was full.

It was full.

There wasn’t just a frightening storm. There wasn’t just turbulent waves. There wasn’t just a few feet of water in the ship.

No.

The ship was full of water.

As I’m composing this, my heart goes out to each and every person who is in such a situation. Maybe you’re struggling financially and you don’t know how you will feed your kids. Maybe a loved one has just passed away. Maybe you find yourself destitute and alone. You find yourself in dire straights, and your ship is full of water. Whatever the circumstances, it looks as if they will certainly drown you.

It is not the end.

Go to Jesus. In the middle of your storm.

Go to Jesus. When your ship is full.

Go to Jesus. Even if you’re doubting Him.

Looking at the passage, we see the disciples aren’t asking for His help. They aren’t going to him in faith. They’re going to him in anger and frustration. Pain and disbelief. They say,

“Master, carest thou not that we perish?”

Jesus immediately calms the storm and the seas become peaceful. He rebukes them for their unbelief. The story ends with them marveling at His power.

There may come a time when you loose all faith in God. You doubt His power, you doubt his involvement, and you doubt His love. Go to Him anyway. Ask Him for His help. He can calm the storm, even when you doubt Him and loose all faith.