Control’s Control

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The One Who had all control laid it down to save our souls.

Scriptures of the Day:

John 11:48

“If we allow him to go on in this way, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away our sanctuary and our nation.”

John 12:10-11

“So the chief priests planned to kill Lazarus too, 11 for on account of him many of the Jewish people from Jerusalem were going away and believing in Jesus.”

John 12:27

“Now my soul is greatly distressed. And what should I say? ‘Father, deliver me from this hour’? No, but for this very reason I have come to this hour.”

A sinister character plots an innocent man’s demise while the dissonant tones from the background music come to a climax, piercing the palpable tension felt while we eagerly watch to see whether the righteous or the wicked will overcome . . .

This typical dramatic scenery has drawn many with the lure of the villian/hero storyline. Me, too.

Many years ago I am ashamed to admit that I was addicted to watching soap operas. True story. When I think back on it now, it is embarrassing. But there I was, watching the clock to make sure I did not miss an episode and clinging to every word to make sure that my favorite character was not duped by the newest control monger in town.

This addiction with soap operas ended when the LORD confronted me on it. “I will set no vile thing before my eyes . . . I will walk in my house with blameless heart . . . (Psalm 101). When I doubted whether or not God was really speaking I asked Him to shut off the television if He did not want me to watch it. And. The. Television. Shut. Off. Thinking it was just a coincidence, I turned the television back on and asked the LORD to confirm. And. The. Television. Shut. Off. Again.

So, that ended my fascination with soap operas and television, in general. But what was it that was so addicting about them in the first place?

Deep within we all want to know that the good guy wins. The thought of manipulative people wrecking people’s lives and plans by controlling their outcomes is unjust.

But even in the vilest plots of the enemy, the sovereignty of our God trumps it all. His will WILL be accomplished. No matter what. No one can control that outcome. It is done.

Even with this truth, man still strives to control in his folly. So how does control end up controlling us? The motivations for control are many. Here are just a few:

Fear. The Pharisees were motivated to kill Jesus because of fear – fear that they would lose control. What was it they were trying to control and why would they want to keep the living Truth from all people?

Power. They wanted to maintain the power they had and were blinded by their selfish pursuits and . . .

Jealousy. They did not want another leader to come and take away their audience. They were even willing to kill the man Jesus had just raised from the dead (Lazarus) to try and stop the fame of Christ from spreading. Wow. How did they become so blind?

We, too, can lose perspective and become crazed in our quest for control, if we are not careful. It might be a little matter, but it could become a big problem, causing dissension even in the body of Christ. In the end, we ultimately control nothing.

While God is always in control, the One Who had all control laid it down to save our souls. Jesus did not seek to control or to have deliverance from His suffering, but solely chose to glorify God, yielding His will to the Father. God was sovereignly in control at all times, even over the death over His own Son – and the Son trusted the Father in it all.

The fruit of our thoughts and actions reveals their source – is our behavior of God or Satan? Is the glory we seek our own or God’s? When we rid ourselves of fear and bitter envy and recognize that God is in control, we are free from control’s control.

 

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 5: Root Repair – Jealousy

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

For real gratitude to take root, sometimes we need to purify the soil of our hearts first.

Scripture of the Day:

James 3:14-16

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfishness in your hearts, do not boast and tell lies against the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16For where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is disorder and every evil practice.

Proverbs 27:4

“Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?”

One more “cleaning house” principle in the caretaking of our roots before we get on to cultivating gratitude the remainder of this month. For real gratitude to take root, sometimes we need to purify the soil of our hearts first.

If you have ever been the recipient of jealousy, you will never want to be the one guilty of it yourself. Jealousy is essentially saying that we are not content with what God has provided. It is coveting what someone else has and sometimes takes on a brutal fashion of trying to take down the other person in an effort to get what we want. Yuck.

So how does jealousy prevent thankfulness? When we are absorbed in wanting something we cannot get or focusing on our lack of having something that someone else has, there is no place for gratitude. Jealousy is the antithesis of thankfulness; it is actually thanklessness and discontent with our status or situation in life.

We root out jealousy by endeavoring to create an atmosphere of humility. God has different plans for us all and we would never want to step outside of His sovereign will to strive to get what someone else has – He won’t bless it.

Examining the attitude of our Savior Who was King over all but chose to serve humanity with the laying down of His own life inspires us to do the same. Victory comes as we lay down our agendas, pride, striving – all at the feet of Jesus – and pick up gratitude that He died for our sins, instead.

There can be no jealousy that remains when we compare our perceived lack with Christ’s chosen path of sacrifice. Whatever we hoped to gain is now all loss as we bow at the cross in utter gratitude that He gave it all for us.

 

A Season of Thankfulness: Day 11 – My Deliverer

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Photo Credits:
notetoselfdailyremindersforthebrokenhearted.wordpress.com

Psalm 129:2

“Since my youth they have often attacked me, but they have not defeated me.”

Psalm 130:5-7

“I rely on the LORD, I rely on Him with my whole being; I wait for his assuring word. 6 I yearn for the LORD, more than watchmen do for the morning, yes, more than watchman do for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD, for the LORD exhibits loyal love, and is more than willing to deliver.”

Psalm 50:15

“Pray to me when you are in trouble! I will deliver you, and you will honor me!”

If we have lived long enough, we have all experienced someone who was jealous of us our just did not like us.  Since childhood, I have seen this reality played out in the lives of others and in my life.  I never understood it then, and I do not understand it fully now – but when we come to God, He is able to grant insight and wisdom.

The flesh wants to glorify itself and exalt self above everyone else, if left unchecked.  People vie for position as if it can bring them life, or try to make miserable the one who was placed in a position, as if they were to blame.  But God’s sovereignty and purpose is woven throughout.

I used to really get upset when I learned of people gossiping about me or someone else, but now I see it as a golden opportunity to glorify God and let it work character in, instead.  The persecution of jealousy begins to work in our character a jealousy for God’s glory and not our own.  No longer upset that someone is not a fan of us, we become upset if someone’s actions would hurt Christ’s bride, the church.  I would not want to be that person.  Sadly, we all have been at one time or another.

If we are all honest, we have all not liked some personalities. This being true of us all, we are still called to love.  We are not the standard – God is.  Popularity is fleeting.  When backbiting and slander happen even within the church, we must resist the devil and put on love.  We must care more about the church than our own offenses.

Praise be to God Who delivers us from attacks from the enemy!  Instead of being caught up in a mire of drama or becoming offended, we are freed up to have concern for the one who is offended by us.  Instead of fear of their perception, we cry out to God who defends and delivers us from it all.

Sometimes He delivers us through understanding and sometimes He defends us from attack.  Ultimately He led by the perfect example; being LORD of Lords, but choosing to be a servant.  Being mistreated and putting on love in the midst.

Lord, thank You for being our Deliverer!  Thank You for showing us a better way and opening our eyes to see the real spiritual warfare all around us.  Help your church, oh God!  May we care more about Your glory than our own.

Weapons of Warfare

Photo Credits: covenantpromises.org

Photo Credits:
covenantpromises.org

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

“For though we live as human beingswe do not wage war according to human standards4 for the weapons of our warfare are not human weaponsbut are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds.  We tear down arguments  5 and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ.”

2 Timothy 2:23-25

But reject foolish and ignorant controversies, because you know they breed infighting.  24 And the Lord’s slave must not engage in heated disputes but be kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient,  25 correcting opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance and then knowledge of the truth.

2 Corinthians 10:4

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

Isaiah 54:17

“No weapon forged to be used against you will succeed; you will refute everyone who tries to accuse you. This is what the LORD will do for his servants–I will vindicate them,” says the LORD.”

It is difficult to live in this body of flesh and live for the LORD.  Fatigue and worldliness creep in easily if we are not watchful. Sometimes I can be lulled into a false perspective that being Christian is to be “nice” and flexible, tolerant of everyone and everything.  I can become disillusioned when I think salvation is equated to being loved by all and living a trouble-free life.

While we are called to love everyone, that does not mean we should expect reciprocation.  It also does not mean that we ought to condone sinful lifestyles or give in to the philosophies of this world.  Paul, who had previously zealously persecuted Christians, was a fighter.  He knew that to be faithful to God meant to be vigilant with our thoughts, faithful to seek God and spread His word.  He recognized that this Christian walk is a battle and he armed himself for the task at hand.

But we all do not have personalities like Paul.  I confess that I am naturally a shy person and a peacemaker.  I would rather avoid conflict, but sometimes it is necessary.  On one hand, I will not seek it out and waste energy on controversial arguments, but on the other hand, I want to be ready at all times to give an answer when someone is truly seeking.

Timothy strikes me as a more gentle soul, wanting to shepherd those around him, but equally as faithful to disseminate the word of God.  I love his heart to keep what really matters in perspective – winning one precious soul with gentle correction. It wasn’t about being right, but about caring for the other person enough to be unpopular with them while the truth was lovingly shared.

We have all perhaps seen hostile arguments over faith and even tearing down of fellow believers because their style or personality was different.  We might have even done so ourselves.  These are not the weapons we are to use as believers. Pride and vanity can cloud our view and cause us to see things from a merely human point-of-view, but love can clear the fog.  Not the world’s definition of love, but God’s Agape, unconditional love, which speaks the truth completely in love.

Boldness from God consumes me and causes me to see my need of God and to fulfill the calling He has on my life.  I just want to be faithful.  Sometimes we can be about the work of God and suddenly find ourselves under attack.  (Which, by the way, should not surprise us, but being that my short term memory is lessened a great deal, I am surprised every time).

Even fellow believers can nip at our heels and judge the work we are doing in the LORD.  What weapons should be use in our arsenal?  Prayer.  Forgiveness.  Love.  When persecution or judgments arise, they are opportunities to walk after the Spirit and not the flesh; to cry out to God, not man; to read His Word and apply it in our lives.

The stumbling blocks of fear and self-preservation can inhibit us from using the weapons God prescribes for use in spiritual battle and from trusting in God to fight for us.  He is our Deliverer and able to accomplish far more than we ever could with our human tools.  His weapons are not of this world and the battles we face are not, either.

Lord, thank you for being our Defender.  Help us to recognize that every we battle we face in this life is a spiritual encounter, not a physical, fleshly one.  You have overcome all!  Help us to use the weapons You have given us, that many will be saved and healed.

Perception’s Deception

Photo Credits: cgutek.com

Photo Credits:
cgutek.com

1 Samuel 16:7

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t be impressed by his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

When Samuel was choosing the future King, he was led by God.  Men tried to sway him to pick according to their own prejudice and preference, but Samuel sought God’s favor.  People were shocked that David, a mere shepherd boy who played the harp was selected.  He was the youngest, the least that anyone would have expected.  It was, perhaps, politically incorrect.

The people qualified Samuel’s choice: “but he’s taking care of the flock . . .” – not someone God would choose, would He? David might not have been esteemed as a leader in man’s eyes, but to God, who knew his heart, David was the perfect choice.  Confidence in appearance never lasts, but character endures long past looks, wealth or popularity have faded.   Waiting for God’s best requires patience, trust and obedience in God, not fear of man.

It is a humbling thing putting ourselves before man, whether it be to step out in ministry, to share what God has done, or to lead in some fashion.  We will be tested in those times to develop character and sometimes in our own hometown we will not be endorsed.  Like David, people around us know we are imperfect.  They may hold a perception of us that we cannot affect.  The true moment of freedom comes when we realize that we do not have to.

None of us wants to be misunderstood, but it is a fact of life.  People have their perceptions formed on the surface in the chalice of opinion, gossip, envy, or experience.  Whether or not there is truth behind that perception often doesn’t matter, as the power of emotion can be stronger and people are often fed opinions by the peecee police in an attempt to control outcomes.  But the humility of reserving judgment before tearing down another brother or sister is rare and needed today.

To form a viewpoint on another person without attempting to know their heart is prideful and demonic.  It is also folly to trust in what someone or something appears to be, only to be let down.   Discernment comes through prayer and the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

These same patterns of judgment and jealousy are in the body of Christ today.  They were also present in the time of Christ. Jesus’ own disciples questioned the motives of other followers of Christ casting out demons in Jesus’ name.  A competitive spirit was quickly quelled by the Master, though, who saw all working together for the glory of God.

Are we a David, being chosen for a work, or the older brother, scorning someone else who is seeking to work for the kingdom of God?  In either station, may we recognize we are nothing apart from Christ.  We are all unqualified to serve the King of kings.  Therefore no jealousy is permitted and no pride, either, in whatever position we are in.

Blind trust in someone can bring devastation, but we have to be willing enough to be vulnerable and not allow ourselves to become embittered and believe the worst in others, either.  We all need grace and need to believe we are capable of being better tomorrow than we were today – no matter what the appearance suggests.

Lord, we answer to you alone.  Thank You for calling each of us for Your glory.  We are so needful, yet You use us.  Help us to not fear man, but to serve you faithfully.  May we also not discourage another because of a weakness we see in them, either.

Thoughtful Thursday: Flattery’s Fool

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Proverbs 26:24 “The one who hates others disguises it with his lips, but he stores deceit within him.” 

Proverbs 26:28 “A lying tongue hates those crushed by it, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”   

Proverbs 27:4 “Wrath is cruel and anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?”

James 3:14 – “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfishness in your hearts, do not boast and tell lies against the truth.

James 3:16 – “For where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is disorder and every evil practice.” 

Romans 12:9 “Love must be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good.”

Whenever someone is praising me, I am given to pause.  I acknowledge in my heart that anything good in me is only Christ and remind myself that nothing good dwells in me apart from God.  Compliments and flattery feel good.  If flattery works ruin,though, I do not want to embrace it nor accept it.  On the other hand, encouragement is beneficial, necessary and a biblical mandate, so how can we differentiate between encouragement and flattery?  At first blush I would rather have flattery than blatant hatred, until I consider the insidious nature of flattery.

There are haters everywhere today, but some of them might be even within your closest circles.  They might not even believe it themselves if they were confronted with the hate they are concealing.  Sometimes they want your approval, sometimes they pretend to be your biggest fan, but you get this feeling that betrays their outward praise. What causes this deceitful tongue?  Jealousy, which is ultimately hatred of the one envied.  Jealousy is discontentment with what God provided and the wrong belief that we deserve what the other person has.  The object of jealousy reveals the motivation of the heart.  Is it the outward appearance that is praised?  Then vanity could be the root cause of envy.  Is it talents that are praised?  Jealousy of ability might be to blame.  Or perhaps it is because you do not give that person something they want from you, which they can really only get from God.  They wrongfully expect something from you that you are not led to give, so they hate you for it.

The scriptures above reveal a wicked heart that would seek your destruction and yet couch it in kindness.  Wow – what a scary picture.  Our enemy is crafty and ever seeking our demise, but we can naively think his tactics would be obviously evil.  Even a Christian can be used by the enemy if envy and anger are left unchecked in his heart.  No one likes to be the recipient of another person’s disdain of themselves, yet I am certain everyone reading this blog has also had moments themselves in which they were a tool of the enemy in this regard.    So, while I am shocked when I see people harming me with insincere flattery then gossiping about me behind my back, I realize I am just as guilty or as capable of the same sin. So, how do we combat this evil?  Giving that sin the worst name, realizing what I am really doing and praying for deliverance from it.

What strikes my heart the most when I am tempted to hate another human, is that this precious life was made in the image of God.  Flawed, yet beautiful to Christ.  They might have injected harm and pain into my life and be a thorn in my flesh, but they are loved by God.  They might not even understand why they do it themselves.  I do not have to become best buddies with them, but I can pray for them and ask God for wisdom in what a relationship with them looks like.  Mental health is a big part of victory in this area of our lives, too.  Recognizing that I cannot stop or control someone from envying or hating me, but I can put on love and place them in God’s hands, instead, is crucial.  Love must be sincere.  I do not have to pretend I am someone’s closest confidant or be manipulated to do what someone is demanding in order to be godly.  In fact, that would be inappropriate and harmful.  No, instead, I can die to my desire for man’s praise and worshiping at the altar of acceptance, when it is fleeting.  I can rise above the small-mindedness and dwell on God and His word.  Let’s not be flattery’s fool when we realize any crown of praise or flattery we would receive should just be laid down at His feet, anyway.

Thank You, God, for revealing our hearts and setting us free.  Help us to not get caught up in the quagmire of sin often found in superficial relationships that can entrap us.  Help us to love sincerely from our heart and forgive one another, all for Your glory!

In Good Company

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By: Denise Pass © 6/26/14

Psalm 62:4, 12, Psalm 63:11b, Psalm 64:3, 7, 8,10

:4 They spend all their time planning how to bring him down. They love to use deceit; they pronounce blessings with their mouths but inwardly they utter curses. 12 And You, O Lord, demonstrate loyal love. For you repay men for what they do. Psalm 63:11… everyone who takes oaths in His name will boast, for the mouths of those who speak lies will be shut up. Psalm 64:3 They sharpen their tongues like a sword; they aim their arrow, a slanderous charge. 7 But God will shoot at them; suddenly they will be wounded by an arrow. 8 Their slander will bring about their demise. All who see them will shudder. 10 The godly will rejoice in the Lord and take shelter in Him. All the morally upright will boast.

Ever had someone who just did not like you? You try to do everything you can to affect their feelings, but to no avail. Perhaps it is just the position you hold in their life, but making sense of it appears to be impossible. Accepting it is even more difficult.

When I am tempted to be absorbed in self-pity due to the discovery that someone has slandered me or expressed to others their hatred, I find comfort in God’s word. It just is not about me. Godly men in Scripture suffered similarly and had drama surrounding them. David had enemies – Joseph did, too – within their own household. David’s son would betray him, Joseph’s own brothers would be blinded by jealousy – but God would ultimately use it for good. In fact, all throughout Scripture there is a pattern repeated many times within families. Separation due to jealousy, anger, hurt feelings. Sometimes due to faith, too.

Such behavior seems nonsensical, inane, but assuredly most everyone will encounter and have to deal with being the object of scorn. How can we glorify God in that situation? First, bringing the pain to God and asking Him to reveal any hidden sin in ourselves can shed some light. Seeking His perspective, not ours, begins to make things clearer. Asking questions of myself, such as why it bothers me when I am slandered, helps me to understand that I am seeking glory, seeking to be admired and accepted. Did Christ worry about people liking him? Not so much. He embraced the reality of dissenters and prayed for them.

What if I was more worried about God being robbed of glory than myself? Ultimately it is all about God’s glory and He is my Defender. Resting in His deliverance versus striving on my own brings peace and joy. If I lay down the idol of my reputation and seek to glorify Him in my response, perhaps then I can see how something so insidious as someone talking about me can actually work for my good and God’s glory. Lastly, counting our blessings and focusing on all the good in our lives puts the focus where it needs to be.

If you find yourself despised today, know that you are in good company. Our Savior and many amazing biblical characters suffered similarly. He is able to help you take your eyes off of yourself and set your gaze on Him – the only One Who truly was innocent, and Who we all were once enemies of.

Lord, it hurts when we are shunned or when people believe slander about us. Help us to rejoice in those times that we can experience a tiny portion of what You endured. Be glorified, Lord – in our afflictions and momentary hardships – which can never compare to Your willing sacrifice.