All the skunks in our town recently reminded me of a post I wrote in 2014. A skunk interrupted me while sitting on our porch and I couldn’t help but think of the similarities between handling that situation and handling temptation. In neither case is it a good idea to stick around. Running is the best choice! Read on…
It was 10:18 PM. Everyone was asleep when Uncle Chuck called to talk. I went out onto our side porch and settled into my new Cracker Barrel rocker to catch up on life. After we hung up I remained on the porch to think and pray. The cool breeze caressed my skin as I breathed in the fresh air. Bright pinpoints of light shone in the clear sky giving a sense of peace. Continue Reading
Romans 6:12 “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.”
Our town has a skunk problem!! Numerous people throughout the village have complained about these black and white critters with the fluffy tail and big stink. Recently one of our renters called to inform us that seven offenders had taken up residence under her shed. That same night we found one scuttling his way across our office parking lot. While I have a great love for God’s created creatures, there are certain species that a person does not want taking over her home or place of business.
Where did they all come from? I am not sure, but I have an idea why they are sticking around. The other day while visiting a local shop we watched a skunk run across the grass. Mentioning it to one of the locals, the gentleman informed us that he has been feeding them. In so doing he had even succeeded in enticing one to come right up to his feet. I am thinking this is probably not a wise idea. One day the plan will backfire and everyone will regret it!
The Bible warns us about a similar danger. Sin runs rampant in this world of ours. It is part of every human’s fallen nature and is the cause of all that is wrong on earth. Jesus came to free us from our sin, and we must not allow it to take up residence in our lives anymore. Those who have accepted God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ have received power to live God’s way. We no longer need to obey our evil desires, but unfortunately many continue to feed their sinful tendencies.
A troublesome thought life should not be fed with worthless pictures or pornography. Hatred should not be nurtured with vicious words and angry bitterness. Envy should not be offered situations where the tendency can grow and lead to unhealthy decisions. When we feed and nurture these sinful vices, they will learn they can creep right up to our feet and take over our whole life. When this happens it is only a matter of time before you and everyone around you will regret it!
I think it’s time to take some action in our small country town. The skunks, along with sin, have no business ruling our lives. They have had their day, but it’s time to stop feeding them. In fact, it’s time to send them packing!
Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
This has been an exciting week. Luke and Brianna signed the lease for the apartment they will live in after getting married and all of us helped move their stuff into this new home. Three vehicles and one trailer filled with household goods and furniture transported their belongings from one place to another. We packed and moved box after box. Whew! What a big job. But that’s what you do on move-in day!
All this excitement and flurry took me back to 1989 when Dad and I set up housekeeping at our first little apartment. We rented a small, one-bedroom unit in Lake Hiawatha, New Jersey, where we packed in all our earthly belongings. We didn’t have much at first –wedding gifts and a number of second hand furniture – but it was home for us.
This tiny place was ours for the first four years of our marriage. We enjoyed living there, but always knew it was temporary. We didn’t spend much money to fix things up or even decorate as we were both very frugal and wanted to save our money for when we got our “real home.”
Four years later we packed up our things and moved to Ohio. Here we purchased a small house on Main Street. It was a great starter home, but again we knew it would be temporary and spent only as much money as was needed to make it comfortable and pleasant.
Finally, in 1995, we purchased the home we live in now. This farmhouse was just what Dad and I had always dreamed of owning. It was in great disrepair and over the years we have sunk quite a bit of cash into bringing it back to life. All of you kids have spent your growing up years here and I hope you have enjoyed the freedom and opportunity that a country home can bring.
While we have settled in this place where we wanted to stay, I have come to realize that nothing has really changed. This brick two-story and lovely property is still not our “real home.” As the old country hymn states, “This world is not my home. I’m just a-passin’ through . . .” Our real and final home is way beyond the blue in heaven. All the fixing up and money spent on any home here is only for a short stay. That’s why it is important to keep the right perspective about this life. It is only temporary. Making an eternal investment in our heavenly home a priority is the wisest thing to do.
I am so excited for Luke and Brianna as they set up housekeeping and start their lives together. If they are like us, they will probably live in a number of different places before they reach their “real home.” But even that will not be their final dwelling. For Christians the last move will be the easiest. We will leave our dwellings and stuff here, and settle down in heaven for eternity. And what a move-in day that will be!
Isaiah 30:15 “For thus the Lord God the Holy One of Israel, has said, ‘In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.’ But you were not willing.”
There are some sad statements made throughout the Bible. Over and over again we read words of comfort and promises of God’s blessings, but often we choose to disregard His message. God offers us so much, and then sadly has to say, “ But you were not willing.”
This has been a very busy season in my life. Graduations, two sons getting married, work, and the regular rhythm of life have all but done me in. I found it necessary in the past couple of months to take a breather from my regular writing schedule so I could rest my body, my emotions, and my mind. Many of you wondered where I have gone. While taking a break from posting I have had time to study and think without pressure. It has been a time of peace and rest.
While reading and praying, the Lord led me to Isaiah 30:15. It has been such a blessing. So much is swirling around me. Wedding preparations are in full swing. Preparing mentally for a huge change in our family structure, as well as balancing work, home, ministry involvement, and so much more bring exhaustion to a new level. But the Lord has continually reminded me of the need to rely more fully on Him in these stressful moments. “In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.”
There are times when we all need to step back from activity. Somehow we think that we must do it all. We run! We fuss! We strive! When all the while God is telling us to trust Him. Be quiet, sit back, and rest!
Judah was in a big mess! They had turned from the Lord and a foreign nation was breathing down the peoples’ necks. Instead of consulting God they tried to execute their own plan for deliverance. They fussed and planned and then finally decided to go to Egypt for help. There they thought they could take refuge in the safety of Pharoah. But all the while God was speaking to them through the prophet, Isaiah. He told them to repent of their sin, turn back to God, and rest in Him. If they would do this they would be saved. By waiting quietly for the Lord they would receive all the strength they needed.
“But you were not willing.” What a sad statement! All this blessing was at the disposal of God’s people, but sadly they rejected it!”
Today, God offers these same blessings to us. He longs to be gracious and show us His kindness and compassion in the midst of every circumstance of life. But we need to listen to His voice and obey. Sometimes this means taking a break from writing, other times it means saying no to the hustle and bustle that regularly dictates our lives so we can allow God’s peace to fill our souls and give us strength. When we are willing to listen we will experience the rest that God promises to give.
As the summer moves forward I plan to continue my writing, but I will only be posting once or twice a week and maybe sharing some favorite posts from the past as God leads. I hope this summer you will also be encouraged to take a rest, and listen for God’s voice. Do not disregard His message. In the quietness and through trust you will experience His unlimited strength and peace.
Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
The words, like angry racquetballs, bounced off the four walls of the neat little home. Harsh dialogue spoken from the depths of raw emotions ripped back and forth – the competition was on. Raised voices shouted wrongs from the past and hea
rts ripped to shreds on both sides. In the heat of the moment, all that mattered was winning. But the satisfaction of the “I’m Right” game lasted only briefly, and a moment of smug glory ended poorly. An important relationship was damaged. What a price to pay for being right!
We’ve all been there! Sometimes it is so hard to keep our mouths shut in tense situations.
We know we are right.
We know we’ve been hurt.
We know we have interesting yet damaging information to share.
And we just need to win the “I’m Right Game”!
This is the game of the world and our sinful human nature is tempted by it, but God’s way is completely different. Ephesians 4:31-32 shows a contrast. The vices listed in verse 31 – bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice – are the reverse of verse 32 – being kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving. One set of rules destroys relationships while the other set builds them.
Why should we respond with kindness and forgiveness? The answer is clear. We should forgive just as God in Christ has forgiven us. We must walk in a manner worthy of our calling with all humility, gentleness, and patience learning to bear with one another in love. Our relationship with God should be evident in our treatment of others.
How can we abstain from playing this dangerous game when the competition is so strong? The NIV Application Commentary says, “We do not control the actions of others, but in choosing to forgive we establish control over our own responses.”
Some helpful ways to play by God’s rules are:
- Pray for early awareness of a tense situation so you will be prepared.
- Recognize the warning signs in your own body so you can choose your response instead of reacting.
- Listen and think before speaking.
- Speak softly and kindly.
- Change your thought process by trying to see the other person’s point of view.
- Consciously make a list of the good things about the other person.
- Seek to imitate God’s response to sinners.
- Trust God to bring the truth to light and to sort out the details of a difficult situation.
Our heavenly Father desires relationship. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die so we could be united with Him . . . and He desires that we also seek unity with others. This won’t happen if we play the “I’m Right” game by the world’s rules. Instead, be imitators of God and walk in love just as Christ loved you. When it comes to relationships, this is the only way you can win!
Titus 1:15-16 “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.”
Things are not always what they seem. In a world where solid truth has dwindled away to almost nothing it is not prudent to trust everyone we meet. Instead we must be wary and check the facts carefully . . . and rely on our Great Fraud Detector.
I am reminded of a book I read a number of years ago. Catch Me If You Can tells the story of Frank William Abagnale, Jr., a brilliant con artist. Between the ages of fifteen and twenty-one, this young man fraudulently posed in numerous professional capacities. Without significant trouble he masqueraded as a Pan American World Airways pilot, a Georgia doctor, a Louisiana lawyer, and a US Bureau of Prisons crime agent. Somehow he was able to pull the wool over peoples’ eyes for a short time, but eventually each charade unraveled and he was forced to escape to his next identity. After being caught and imprisoned, Abagnale developed a successful business to help other professionals recognize fraud.
Within the greater Christian community there has long been fraudulent activity. From the time of Jesus, Pharisees and other spiritual leaders professed to know God in special ways and used their elevated positions to control worshippers. They created laws that went beyond what God intended and used them to suppress the community and benefit themselves. On two different occasions Jesus entered the temple and removed by force those who were oppressing the people.
In more recent church history there have also been those who have used their leader status for personal gain. In the late Middle Ages, certain clerics, preying on peoples’ fear of death, fraudulently implemented the sale of indulgences, which were supposed to protect the sick and elderly from eternal punishment. Many spent hard earned cash to purchase what could never save them based on promises from leaders whom they wrongly trusted.
Even today there are those who preach fraudulent doctrines. They deliver false messages of salvation by works, of Christian wealth, or of the equality of all religions. They betray their listeners by pointing them to hopeless and misleading doctrines – ones that do not call the hearers to a pure faith in the Lord Jesus.
Frank Abagnale failed in each of his masquerades. Over time it became apparent to the genuine professionals that his actions and words didn’t fit the part he was playing. He often had to flee when the game became too hot.
We also can detect fraudulent religious leaders by comparing their words and actions to the truth of the Scripture. Imposters in the church may acknowledge God with their words, but a careful study of their beliefs and deeds will eventually show that they are promoting false doctrines.
Things are not always as they seem. So if you don’t want to be duped like the victims of Frank Abagnale, be aware of the danger, check the facts carefully, and rely on our Great Fraud Detector – God’s written word.
Titus 1:1 “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness…”
Our world has a deep belief in entitlement. Somehow over the years we have come to the conclusion that everyone has a right to whatever they want. It is my right to think what I want, believe what I want, express what I want, and obtain what I want. No one may stand in the way and deny me my rights. While this may seem enticing, it is not healthy or possible.
First of all, one person’s desires may stand in the way of someone else’s receiving their desires. For example, there may only be one lead in a theatre production. A talented actor’s getting the spot necessarily leaves another, who might want the part just as badly, to take a lesser role. This decision does not downplay anyone’s importance as a person, but makes a distinction based on talent, role casting, or maybe even just hard work. Also, the attitude of believing ourselves entitled to certain things necessarily exalts us above everyone else. Love and consideration of others is lost when we strive for this place of honor.
In the church today there are some who also have an attitude of entitlement. We like to focus on God’s grace and His free gift of forgiveness and salvation. It is true that God is not looking for perfect people. He came to save the sick and the lost. We are saved by God’s grace and not by works, but sometimes at this point a misunderstanding occurs and the truth becomes garbled.
There are many who believe that they can continue to live in their old lifestyle – the one they lived before they accepted Christ. The habits and disciplines of faith that have strengthened many ancient saints in the past are now considered “legalism.” The prevailing attitude is that no one can tell me how to live my life because I am entitled to all God’s blessings based on my decision to pray a prayer.
Paul reminds us that when a person has received the knowledge of God’s truth it will necessarily lead to godliness. We are not entitled to come to our own understanding of truth, as our world would like to believe. A truly saved person will begin to desire what God desires. He will want to know his heavenly Father better, and the disciplines that have guided many in the past will become avenues for seeking Him and His will. Bible reading, prayer, and church attendance will deepen our understanding of God’s principles, encourage growth in godliness, and spur us on to love, good works, and greater faith. Slowly, but surely, God will change the way we think and live as we give up the entitlement to make our own decisions and give Him the control over everything in our lives.
In our search to know God better we may also need to relinquish certain things. While anything sinful must certainly be put behind us, other activities might also need to be curtailed. While it may not be wrong to watch TV, someone addicted to this form of entertainment might need to remove it from his or her life in order to put God first. This is not “legalism,” but wisdom.
We are not entitled to anything in this life. Everything we have is a gift from God and even His children’s blessings are obtained through obedience to His word. We are no longer our own. We have been bought with a price – the precious blood of Jesus. Seek Him and choose to obey His truth. You will find that it will surely lead to godliness.
Titus 3:9 “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.”
Most people like to have the last word. When it come to arguments we each feel that our point of view is correct and work really hard to get our opponent to see our side. In a healthy relationship each party can give and take and come to an agreement, or at least agree to disagree, but sometimes the effort is not worth the trouble. Sometimes the effort produces more damage than help.
Any regular study of the Bible will reveal that humanity has not changed much: customs and living conditions are different, but the basic human nature stays the same. Then, as now, there are many who have turned from God’s point of view to their own understanding of the world. The desire for relevance and the need to justify sinful actions creates a tension between believers and unbelievers. While we as God’s children are called to point others to the truth from God, there are times when we must give up our aspiration for the last word.
Titus was a contemporary of Paul and Timothy. He traveled with them on some missionary journeys and carried the same heart of compassion for the lost. He was a non-Jewish believer whom Paul was training to carry on the gospel ministry. While stationed on the island of Crete, Titus received a letter from his spiritual mentor giving instructions on how to combat the lies that were circulating in this community. Paul instructed him to appoint elders, godly men to be teachers and examples of truth. He encouraged believers of all stations of life to live in a way pleasing to God and to help each other to grow in the faith. He encouraged compassion for the unsaved by reminding Titus that each of us were once lost in our own sin until God in His mercy reached out to us.
But Paul also told Titus that there comes a time when you must give up having the last word. Some factious men, not interested in the truth of God, would just want to argue their point of view. After warning these arguers of their error a couple of times, Paul told Titus to “let it go.” From then on he was to avoid their foolish controversies and disputes about God’s law. Working hard to have the last word on the matter would be a waste of time better put towards reaching those who were open to the truth. It would also give these men a platform for spewing their lies, thereby deceiving many others. In arguing against the truth so vehemently these men were sinning and condemning themselves.
It’s very hard to give up our desire for the last word – especially when we are confident we are right. We must be ready to defend our faith at a moments notice. But there are times when we need to “let it go” and stay away from foolish controversies that will come to no good. We can pray for these who are deceived, but God is the only One who can change their hearts.
Do you like to always come out on top when you are right? Defending and debating is not always what God wants His children to do. Sometimes we need to avoid an unprofitable conversation – but I’m not going to have the last word here. Read what the Bible says and decide for yourself.