Are You Fractious?

It’s easy to learn something new every day, but I don’t always like what I learn. Take these verses from Titus and Romans:

“But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.” – TITUS 3:9‭-‬11 NASB

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:18‭, ‬21 ESV

Have you ever truly read these verses? I’m quite sure I’ve read them before, or at the very least, heard them read, but they sure didn’t register with my brain until today. “Reject a fractious man ….” I looked up the word ‘fractious’ and was a bit dismayed by what I found.

Factious as defined by Dictionary.com is all of this and more. Aliented, belligerent, contentious, dissident, divisive, hostile, insubordinate, insurgent, litigious, malcontent, mutinous, partisan, quarrelson, rebellious. I’ve spent a large part of my life being fractious, and I still catch myself, especially the partisan and rebellious parts. I am partisan, a strong supporter of things I believe in. I am rebellious against anyone trying to force their beliefs on me, and I confess to some belligerence when I need to be forgiving to the person(s) who wrong me.
As R. T. Kendall wrote in Total Forgiveness, “forgiveness is giving up the natural desire to see the person who wronged you ‘get what’s coming to them.‘ ” Oh, such truth! It’s hard to give up our “natural desires,” because our “natural” selves are so deeply mired in sin. I am fortunate that a few of the people who have known me didn’t follow Titus’ words and reject me for being fractious. In today’s world, I think we’d all be pretty isolated if we were rejected for that. Look at how many people actually make a living by being fractious! Newscasters, social media talkshow hosts, so-called comedians, and politicians, just to name a few. The louder we get, the more fractious we become, the more people listen. As we become more controversial, our audience continues to grow.

It’s important to remember how these things, these attitudes, affect our walk with Christ. This morning, I watched a replay of a television show that was aired 22 years ago. A very famous woman, one with a great influence, came on a controversial new show to give her support. An audience member who identified as a Christian called this famous woman out, asking how she could support this show while calling herself a Christian. This famous, influential woman, answered “my definition of Christian is different from yours.” How can that be? There is, and can only be one definition of ‘Christian’. A follower of Jesus Christ, who accepts that Jesus is the Son of GOD, and that Jesus came as the ultimate, and final, sacrifice for our sins. Believing that Jesus died on the cross for us, was buried, and rose up out of that grave on the third day. He was resurrected for us. Knowing that He will return to earth one day and take His followers to spend eternity with Him. You have to know that Jesus was not a “good man” and He was not a prophet. He was, is, and will always be the Son of the Most High God.

More Christians need to be Chrst-followers and be considered fractious in the eyes of the world, standing up for the True Gospel. We need to be living peaceably, as much as is possible. If I am seen as fractious by the world because of my testimony, I accept that as an acknowlegement that I am doing what God wants of me. If, however, the Christian community sees me as being fractious and unforgiving, then I need to get on my knees and ask God for guidance.

This Is Timely….

“Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” – JAMES 4:11‭-‬12 NASB

I don’t think James was speaking about man’s laws here, but God’s. There isn’t a person on earth who can say they are better than another, because even though our outward lives may appear “better”, God looks at our thoughts over our actions. Our thoughts make us no better than the worst murderer, because who hasn’t murdered someone in their thoughts? Or whose thoughts would reveal that they have desired a man or woman who was not their spouse? Who hasn’t wished for gold and riches, a bigger better house, more clothes and more things? Just because someone looks all clean and prim and proper on the outside, doesn’t mean that inside, they are the same. We have to remember, too, that in God’s eyes, sin is sin. A lie is no better or worse than murder – and everybody has lied.

“You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter.” – James 5:5 NLT

So. What to do?

I think that all we can do is to do as Jesus did, and continually pray to the Father, not my will, but Thine. Actually, that’s the best thing we can do! I’m far from perfect, and I count myself among the worst of criminals, but there is one thing I know without a single doubt: I have been forgiven of all my sins, and one day I will see my Saviour! O Glorious Day, one day He is coming! Listen to this hymn, Glorious Day, sung by Casting Crowns.

Do you know that Truth? Can you sing without hesitation that when He returns, He is coming to sweep you up with Him ……. or will you be at the Judgement Seat, wondering what happened?

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s One and Only Son.” – John 3:16‭-‬18 NLT

MY Plans 🙊🙉🙈

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.” – JAMES 4:13‭-‬16 NASB

Ah yes. I had great plans for my life. Yep….. I had great plans for my life. From high school to college, where I would graduate with a degree in Art (not education, mind you, just Art.) While at college, my plan was to meet “the” guy who would love me and protect me and support me, for the rest of my life. Problem was, instead of allowing God to lead, I became impatient (who, me??), and began making choices and decisions based on emotion and human want. If you’ve been following me for long, you know that hasn’t worked out too well. The guy I picked, the Prince of my dreams, turned out to be more the Prince of my nightmares. I was determined not to fail, though, so I stuck it out for eight long years of lies, cheating, and physical and emotional abuse.

Did I learn from that experience to lean on God, and rely more on His Will and less on mine? Of course not! I was on a roll! I picked another “Prince” to rescue me…… only it turned out that I was the one needing rescue, again, because I was right back in the same situation. I learned from that one, right? Oh, no, of course not. So I tried again, and again, and again. (My ‘picker’ was obviously broken!) I have to keep doing the same things over and over again, determined to get it right on my own, without outside help from other people or from God. That’s the definition of insanity, by the way.

You know how you hear from men who have been through divorce that their ex’s got “everything,” kids, house, car, child support, alimony? Somehow, I kept getting stuck giving them all those things!

I can blame the men, and I can blame God, for my situation in life, but ultimately it all falls on me and my poor choices. James said it perfectly:

“You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

I’m slow and late to acknowlege it, but it is absolutely true. What the future holds, I have no idea. The only thing I know is that I have to rely on the Lord and do my best to understand His Will for my life. Sounds simple; difficult for some of us to accept and do!! A line from an old tv show pops into my mind, and it probably should be one I repeat to myself more often. From Hogan’s Heros, whenever things spiraled out of control, Sgt. Schultz would say “I know nothing!” Only instead of waiting until after things go wrong, I need to say it first – and then listen to God! He knows everything. Amen!

Listen to Mandisa “I’m Just Unfinished”

Talking Heads

From the Urban Dictionary (urbandictionary.com), the top definition for “Talking Head”:

A “Talking Head” is someone who never stops talking. They will corner you by your car after a long day’s work to tell you gossip about the neighbors or to ask you about the details of your day, so they can distort it and spread it throughout the neighborhood. Not all Talking Heads are malicious, but all talking heads are idiots and time-wasters. Over a year, you can lose many precious hours cornered by a Talking Head. – As defined by Ian De La Rosa, from September 19, 2013

On Quora (quora.com), I found the following “definition” of the term “Talking Heads” – and I have to say that, in my opinion, he absolutely nailed it!

“Talking heads,” as an idiom, refers to individuals pontificating a certain creed, ideology, or kindred set of beliefs without critically analyzing the context and substance of their statement. In essence, these individuals are “spokespeople” or pundits representing an ideologue, movement, or other memetic process. Its usage, from my experience, is as an invariably derogatory epithet that coalesces these “spokespeople” into a clique of intellectual stagnation and coagulation which fails to grasp or address any opinion to the contrary of the orthodoxy promulgated by the talking heads. – Michael Alvis, November 27, 2015

“Talking heads” are everywhere. On TV and in social media, they mix actual news with political agendas and twist things out of context. We can find any point of view – from the blantantly radical and violent (both Left and Right) broadcasts, to knee-jerk reactions full of vitriole and inflammatory language, to orchestrated calls to arms (literal and figurative), to carefully thought out commentaries meant to encourage and to inform. I would love to see more of the last! James says:

“For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man**, able to bridle the whole body as well. …..So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. ……With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” – JAMES 3:2‭, ‬5‭-‬6‭, ‬9‭-‬10 NASB

(**There is and was and will be only One Perfect Man, the person of Jesus Christ, Who never stumbled in anything He said.)

We can easily find ourselves becoming individual “Talking Heads,” if you will, when we become too stuck and dogmatic in our views. As followers of Christ, it is so important to guard our hearts, so that our tongues don’t start sparks of resentment and animosity, causing the people we speak to to reject what we say. Our hearts and what we hold in our hearts, no matter how well we think we have it hidden and tucked away, affects every word that we utter. Listen to James! (He is much wiser than I can ever hope to be!)

“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” – JAMES 3:14‭-‬16 NASB

In Proverbs, we receive many instructions on the value of using wisdom and the teachings of our youth. Unfortunately, too many are growing up today without good teaching. (**This is not a dig against school teachers! I am referring to the Good teaching of the Scriptures.) In chapter 4, I believe the father referred to isn’t David, as you would expect from Solomon, but to GOD, the Father.

“Then He taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast My Words; Keep My Commandments and live; Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of My Mouth. Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth And put devious speech far from you.” – PROVERBS 4:4‭-‬5‭, ‬23‭-‬24 NASB

When we search for God’s wisdom, and we learn His commandments and store them in our hearts, our tongues become more obedient…… That’s my goal! To remember I have two ears and one mouth, and to think before letting the words tumble out of my mouth.

Listen to Matt Maher “Lord I Need You” – My One defense, my Righteousness!

Even Demons Believe

Did you know that Martin Luther wanted to delete the book of James from the Bible? It was a surprise to me!

“You believe that God is one* [One early missive reads there is one God]. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected …… ” – JAMES 2:19‭-‬22 NASB

James wrote about faith and works. Is faith complete without works? Can you do the works without the faith? The book of James is focused on these questions, but my laser eye (hahaha!!) focused instead on verse 19: “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” How often do we recognize this? When confronted by someone who insists that there isn’t a god, how do we react? Do we react? Or do we respond? I think this verse from James is the perfect response to such a statement! An even better response is the one we live in our daily lives. If demons believe in the One True God, and still go about their business of bringing evil into the world, then isn’t it up to us as believers to bring the opposite into the world?

“And [Jesus] said to him, ” ‘you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” – MATTHEW 22:37‭-‬39 NASB

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “vengeance is mine, I will repay,”says the LORD.” – ROMANS 12:9‭, ‬17‭-‬19 NASB

If more Christians, Christ-followers, dedicated themselves to live life in opposition of the demons, the way Jesus commands us in Matthew and Paul shows us in Romans, think of the impact! Even the demons believe …… but while they hide in the dark and shudder in fear under the gaze of our God, we are privileged to enjoy the Light of His Son, and it is up to us to reflect that Light back into the darkness covering the world. No Fear!

Listen to Love and the Outcome sing King Of My Heart.

Keeping The Law

“If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, “do not commit adultery,” also said, “do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” – JAMES 2:8‭-‬13 NASB

Jesus said this about the Law:

“…… but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – MATTHEW 5:28 NASB

“Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘this people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” – MARK 7:6‭, ‬21‭-‬23 NASB

“He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.” – MARK 7:9 NASB

The Law is so much more than our actions! The Law of GOD is all about our hearts and our minds. If those are right, then our actions will automatically follow. I implore you to search your hearts. Are you as Jesus states, “experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition”? We know what is right. Now follow through.

Count It All Joy

This passage from James has never been one of my favorites.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the Word of Truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.” – JAMES 1:2‭-‬3‭, ‬12‭-‬15‭, ‬17‭-‬18 NASB

I don’t want to hear that I can’t blame my sin on someone – or some thing – other than myself! Yet James said it clearly: “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.I can’t say “the devil made me do it”? I mean, he introduced sin into the world, right? He’s the reason Eve, and Adam, sinned! No, that is flawed. The devil – Satan, the Evil One – did bring in the idea of sin, but we are the ones who choose it over what we know is right. Here’s the thing. Even though we have free will and it is our choice to sin, the LORD in His wisdom gives us a way to circumvent our lack of judgement. Not our free will, but our lack of judgement, our lack of wisdom. The LORD never takes away our free will!

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – JAMES 1:5 NASB

I almost think that James should have written it this way: “But as we all lack wisdom, let us all ask of God ….”

LORD, I ask for Your wisdom, because I know first-hand how flawed my own thinking is, having experienced the consequences of it. I ask for the faith to not doubt You and to wholly submit myself to Your desires over mine. Amen.

(https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Thinker-sculpture-by-Rodin)