Bickering Is FUN

I confess. I like a good argument. Bickering can be fun. It’s definitely entertaining, and can be more interesting than a bland, superficial conversation. Keep in mind, please, that I’m talking about the “blah, blah, blah” conversations. The ones where you find your mind wandering or your eyes closing as you nod off…. Not everyone agrees with me about bickering. It’s important for me to remember is that it isn’t fun or entertaining to everyone. Some people have to be “right”, disregarding truth in the process, or they think that bickering is arguing. (For those of us who are perfect, this is moot, because we are always right!)

I considered myself to be one of those perfect people for years. My thoughts and opinions were unquestionably the best. What I didn’t accept was how utterly broken I was. Oh, the lies we tell ourselves! Thank GOD for His Saving Grace! Accepting our own brokenness, our imperfections, is difficult at best. I think it’s much easier to realize these things in others (Matthew 7:3, Luke 6:41). I will always struggle at times about having to be being “right,” and remember that sometimes – MOST times – it really isn’t important.

I still enjoy a good argument. Maybe I should join a debate club!! Instead of having to be right all of the time, I would truly prefer to be as Christ wants us to be. The Apostle Paul wrote a lot on this subject, so I know I’m not alone in this struggle.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:31‭-‬32 NLT

Isn’t that just a kick in the pants! When I consider how much God has forgiven me, there are no grounds left for me to hold a grudge against anyone, or to demand that I be right. It’s important to recognize the difference in light hearted bickering and arguing, and to know the person you are engaging with. If it makes that person or the people around you uncomfortable, then it becomes a tool for the enemy.

“Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the LORD must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.” – 2 Timothy 2:23‭-‬24 NLT

If you are curious about what a Christian should look like, Ephesians chapter 4 and 2 Timothy 2 are two great places to start reading…. and the whole New Testament! Lots of good stuff there. I need to hold tight to this verse from the prophet Jeremiah:

“But Blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their Hope and Confidence.” – Jeremiah 17:7 NLT

Curses On You

Ever had anyone curse you? I don’t just mean foul language, but for someone to say (and mean) for you to go to hell? There are curses when the individual is truly cursing you, like in voodoo, and there are instances where it is done in jest…. although I don’t understand how you can jokingly refer someone to being cursed. I have been cursed at and had curses directed at me, but never have I had someone for years profess to love me, and then to do a 180 and curse me to hell. Disconcerting, at the least. Alarming, to think that someone close to me, to you, would hold that much hate. Instead of focusing on the injury, we need to focus on Jesus’ words:

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you. ….Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” – Luke 6:27‭-‬31‭, ‬35‭-‬36 NLT

As many of you know, I have harbored grudges and anger and thoughts of revenge against those who have hurt me. All that negative in my life only served as a wedge between me and my God, and it also kept me away from people who genuinely cared for me. Letting the anger fester can kill us, spiritually and physically. The enemy rejoices when we hold on to all that. In my past, I became embroiled in a life of satanic influence, and I tell you the truth, I was within days of dying when I was rescued from it. The curses from that time trailed after me for years, and it is only the intervention of my Lord JESUS that I am alive today. I will forever bear the emotional and physical scars of that time, so that they can be a reminder that Jesus alone will sustain me. Even now, as I have been told to go to hell, I know that Jesus has determined that I need to bless and forgive that person. I cannot do it alone; my compassion fails me. Oh God, how I need you to guide my thoughts and words and actions! My one defense, my righteousness, depends on You, LORD. Blessings on each and everyone who despise me….

Love Your Enemy

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7 NLT

God didn’t tell us we could pick who to love. No, He sent His Son to us, Who taught us these lessons:

“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your GOD with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” – Matthew 22:37‭-‬39 NLT

Short and to the point. Jesus is referring to a passage in Leviticus 19, verses 9-18 when He says to love your neighbor as yourself. Read it – it may help with your understanding the point. I’ve read Bible scholars who say that Jesus is referring to fellow believers when He says ‘neighbors’; I think they should read the story of the Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37. This terribly injured Jew was left for dead by robbers, and a priest and then a temple assistant passed him and left him to suffer rather than sully their hands. A Samaritan, a people despised by the Jews and who in turn hated the Jews, picked up this man, his enemy, and cared for him and provided for him. Who was the real neighbor? Certainly not the man’s fellow Jews! The Samaritan showed love to his enemy. Shouldn’t those of us who have experienced the Love of the Savior lead by example in loving our enemies; our neighbors? Both Luke and Matthew record several instances of Jesus talking about loving our enemies.

“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.” – Luke 6:35 NLT

Even as Jesus showed His love as He was dying, by asking God His Father to forgive those who tortured and crucified Him, so we need to forgive those who hurt us. Yes, I am all too human and know EXACTLY how difficult it is, especially when the hurt is new, or the person is completely unrepentant. In fact, I’m currently dealing with it, even as I write these words. Knowing that the LORD has forgiven me for much, I know that He expects me to forgive others the same…. and more. There are many, many scriptures that talk about forgiveness. Not forgiving, and fostering anger and hurt in my heart, doesn’t do anything to my enemy, it only harms me. The greatest thing we can do, after prayer for our enemy, is to love them. Most times it has to be done at a distance, especially if that enemy caused us physical harm, and we shouldn’t forget, lest we get into another bad situation. Forgiveness is only through Jesus Christ and His Love.

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have Loved you, you should love each other. ….”If you love Me, obey My commandments.” – John 13:34; 14:15 NLT

A Story of Faith

What is faith? One definition says “Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” Whenever I think I about faith, this scripture from Mark comes to mind – “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 NLT) This seems to be my state of mind much of the time. I want to believe without question; I know that God is stronger than the enemy and that He is in control. Why is it so difficult?

“When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people, he returned to Capernaum. At that time the highly valued slave of a Roman officer was sick and near death. When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave. So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. “If anyone deserves your help, he does,” they said, “for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us.” So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” And when the officer’s friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed.” – Luke 7:1‭-‬10 NLT

Here is a man, a Roman officer, enemy to the Jews, and he believes. He has a truly remarkable faith to believe that a man despised by both Jews and Romans, this man Jesus, can heal his servant with just a word…. from a distance! Could I do this? I can tell you that no, I couldn’t. When faced with life-threatening illness and injury, I need a hands-on, physical touch to reassure me. What does that say about someone who grew up in a Christian home, with the teachings of Christ instilled in me from the time I comprehend, and even before that, as an infant? A Roman soldier had more faith than I do? Seems almost inconceivable, doesn’t it? I struggle to rest in the Lord; to believe that He sees the end of this quagmire I find myself in.

The faith of a mustard seed is all we need, according to Jesus. With that minuscule amount of faith, literally about the size of the period at the end of this sentence, we can move mountains. Not a figurative mountain; Jesus was speaking of a literal mountain. Hear him: “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” – Matthew 17:20 NLT

Where is my mustard seed, LORD?

Poverty or Plenty

“Better to have little, with fear for the LORD, than to have great treasure and inner turmoil.” – Proverbs 15:16 NLT

Jesus modeled this proverb during His ministry on earth. But what about His life before His ministry? We know very little about His earthly father, except that he raised Jesus in the small town of Nazareth, and we know that Joseph was a carpenter. We know that Joseph was an “upright” man, a righteous man (Matthew 1:18-25), who followed God’s instructions for his life. As a carpenter who was displaced from his home, and with a young wife and small child, Joseph took his family and traveled to Egypt. They lived there until the Judean king, Herod, died and they could return to Judea safely. We don’t know if Joseph was very poor, or middle class, or wealthy. I like to imagine that Joseph mentored his eldest, Jesus, in the art of carpentry, and that he took good care of his family. I imagine that he was a kind and loving husband and father; a good example for all of his children. I like to believe that Joseph lived out Proverbs 15:16, not necessarily wealthy but an adequate provider, and the religious leader of their home. I wonder if he was disappointed that Jesus didn’t take a wife and settle down to live in Nazareth and to work with him. We don’t know if he was alive during Jesus’s ministry, or present at His death on the cross, or His resurrection from the grave. We don’t read about these things in scripture, because the wealth or poverty of Jesus’s parents isn’t really relevant to the story of His ministry. His earthly father doesn’t have the importance, or the significance, that His heavenly Father does. We know where Jesus really came from, and His heavenly home would make any situation on earth look like poverty!

Jesus understood poverty in the earthly sense, too. During His three years of travel and ministry on earth, He stayed with wealthy people like Lazarus and his sisters, and He ate with Zacchaeus and other wealthy tax collectors. We don’t know, in fact, that He was poor and homeless during His ministry. He said “The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ ” – Luke 7:34 NLT

Does this mean He was wealthy? Poor? Homeless? We know He camped with His followers, and He performed miracles to feed the crowds who followed Him, rather than purchasing food for them. Does it matter? At times, He had plenty, and at times He experienced poverty. I understand that, too well. I have had plenty, shopping when and where I wanted, and going out to eat at nice resturants on a frequent basis. I have also experienced poverty and homelessness, staying with friends and also living in a vacant house for a time. Jesus knew what it was like, even though His real Father’s wealth exceeds anything we could possibly imagine. He reminds us:

“You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have Me.” – John 12:8 NLT

And then He also reminds us that we are blessed and loved by the Almighty LORD of the universe:

“And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” – 2 Corinthians 9:8 NLT

He doesn’t promise to give us everything we want. He promises to provide for our needs. I am clinging to His promises today, not knowing how I will meet my financial obligations beyond today. Mortgage, utilities, car payment, insurance…. no job and no financial cushion because I have used it to survive thus far. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief! All I ask is for enough. Enough to survive and to live on. That’s it. Amen.

Safe….?

“(10) The Name of the LORD is a strong fortress; the godly run to Him and are safe. (14) The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear a crushed spirit? (19) An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars. (24) There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.” – Proverbs 18:19‭, ‬24 NLT

A crushed spirit. That’s what happens in a relationship and a marriage when one leaves, physically or emotionally. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to study on this; too many opportunities. Currently, I find myself again feeling betrayed by a friend, a person I took at his word that he would not abandon me. A crushed spirit. Knowing a person for almost 20 years, being friends and going through good and bad times, helping each other through emotional times, doesn’t guarantee anything. I wanted to believe the best, but everyone lets down their friends at times. Why do we do this? Why make promises we know we won’t keep? Why do we lead others on, letting them believe something in error? Safe? No, there isn’t anyone on earth who is safe, who won’t disappoint you.

No matter how long or how much effort we put into the study of human behaviour, I believe we will always be disappointed, simply because we are human and full of flaws. Knowing that, studying that, doesn’t make it any easier to get past the hurt. The only way to really get past it, to find forgiveness for those who hurt us – and that includes forgiving myself for the hurt I have caused myself and others – and that way, the only way, is through Jesus Christ. Can I still forgive while being treated with disrespect and disdain? Do I want to? I study the scriptures for guidance, because I cannot find forgiveness in my heart. Instead I find sarcasm and anger flooding me, along with the hurt and the disappointment. All of those feelings come straight from the enemy, and they don’t help me at all. In fact, if I let them go, these negative thoughts and feelings can overcome and actually, physically, cause me to be ill.

With Jesus, and through the healing of the Holy Spirit, I can get through this. Study the words of Jesus for forgiveness. He taught us this: “But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:15 NLT

Jesus was betrayed by a friend, a close friend who He loved, one who gave Him over to be tortured and killed in the most horrific ways know to man…. and before He died, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34 NLT

Even while dying; beaten, bruised, and humiliated, Jesus forgave us. Are we beater than the Son of God, that we can hold judgement and unforgiveness over another person? Let the chains of hatred, unforgiveness, anger, and hurt go. Let God have it. He can handle it.

He Ain’t Heavy…..

If you were in the pop culture of 1969, you’ll remember a song that hit the charts in September by the British group the Hollies, and again in 1970 by Neil Diamond, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.” Part of it goes like this:

So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We’ll get there

For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

This is just what Christ taught His followers, and they in turn taught others. It’s a message that is easy to ignore as we go about our lives, wrapped up in the drama of everyday living.

“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.” – Galatians 6:2‭-‬3 NLT

I don’t mind helping those who need help when I can, even though I find it really difficult accepting help for myself. The needs aren’t always financial. Many times, the best way we can help is through prayer for that person. It doesn’t seem like much, and I’ve said, along with countless others, that “All we can do is pray.” ALL we can do? It is absolutely the BEST thing we can do! God knows everything, including our deepest hurts and desires. Nothing is hidden from Him…. so why do we need to pray?

“Who is the Almighty, and why should we obey him? What good will it do us to pray?” – Job 21:15 NLT
Jesus said: “I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” – Mark 11:24‭-‬25 NLT

We need to have conversations with God. The person on this earth who knows us best still wants to have conversations, so why do we think God our Creator wouldn’t want to hear from us? Sometimes we just don’t make (or have!) any sense……