Choir or Chaos?

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Typically, I’m a sucker for birdsong. There’s nothing so soothing and beautiful as a walk in the woods or a time of relaxation in my backyard while the birds serenade me with their songs of joy and contentment. I love it! But one day this week, the song was not so sweet.

As I sat in my chair trying to have my quiet time with the Lord, I noticed an agitation in my spirit. At first, I couldn’t identify its source, but as I quieted my thoughts and became more present of my surroundings, I immediately tuned in to the birdsong. It was as if every bird in my yard (and there are a lot) was singing a different song with a different tempo. Instead of blending their voices in harmony, their varied and overlapping songs created chaos. And it was that “noise” that had caused my heart to race and my mood to shift. The discord of their conflicting melodies reached my inner spirit and brought about feelings of anxiety and stress. All of that from birdsong. Who knew?

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized how much those birds remind me of those of us who are believers in Christ. Sometimes, we get so caught up in doing our own thing, singing our own song, and being our own person that we forget how to unite with other believers. While the Bible calls us to be separate from the world, it does not advocate being separate from one another. But in this day and age, we’re so busy fighting over non-doctrinal issues like clothing, music styles, and whether the church carpet should be tan or blue, we’re causing discord within our ranks. Is it any wonder the world wants nothing to do with us?

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of seeing individual churches drawing away from one another. I’m sick of hearing one pastor belittle another. I’m weary of the robes of self-righteousness worn by those who claim to want to share the love of Christ. We’ve become so caught up in our standards and preferences we’re creating nothing more than a noise that is turning the lost away from the gospel. We’re so focused on being different from (aka, better than) one another that we’re becoming more like the world in that we’re filled with pride and causing strife and division. In our desire to be set apart from the world, we’re putting a bad taste in the mouth of the lost. When they look at the church and see only discord and strife, why would they want to be a part of that? I can’t say I blame them.

But what if, instead of each trying to outdo the other, we learned to get along and accept our differences? What if churches could meet together in harmony and make beautiful music that would entice the lost to come? What if we focused less on our preferences and more on the truth of God’s Word? I believe the noise would become a heavenly melody—one that would honor, glorify and please our heavenly Father.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we may not agree on everything, and that’s okay. As long as we believe the Bible and hold fast to what it says (not what we think it means), we have enough in common to get along. There’s no reason for there to be strife within God’s family. There’s no justification for division among the children of God. Let us put aside our differences and seek to love one another as God would have us do. And in doing so, we’ll make beautiful music the world cannot resist!

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
— Psalm 133:1
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
— Romans 12:10,18
Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
— Romans 14:19
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
— Ephesians 4:1-6

Would Your Husband Be Better Off in the Attic?

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Okay, ladies, today’s devotion is just for you, and I’ll tell you, you’re probably not going to like it. In my defense, I’m just the messenger. What I’m telling you today is straight from the Word of God, but it’s definitely convicting. Let’s look at a couple of verses in Proverbs 21.

It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.
— Proverbs 21:9
It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.
— Proverbs 21:19

When the Bible says something once, it’s important, but when it repeats it, we need to seriously pay attention. Not once, but twice, in this chapter, God highlights it would be better for a man to live in an undesirable environment than to live with a brawling, contentious, or angry woman. What does that say about how adverse the situation is for the man who dwells with a fussy wife? Ouch!

The first verse conveys the idea that a man would be better off living in a corner in the attic. Do you have any idea what my attic looks like? It’s packed full of stuff. It’s dark, dirty, and dusty. There are spiders and who knows what other creepy crawlies. And to top it off, the slanting roof line has large nails protruding from the boards. That’s not even safe. Can you imagine having to live up there? Can you imagine your husband having to live up there? Me neither, but according to this verse, he would be better off if all we do is gripe and complain.

The word “brawling” used in verse nine means “contentious, argumentative, controversial, quarrelsome, or vexed.” Yikes! When I read that verse this morning, a hundred instances of my complaints and negativity immediately floated through my mind. I didn’t even have to try to come up with something. On the flip side, when I tried to convince myself I’m positive and supportive as often as I’m quarrelsome and argumentative, I struggled to come up with many instances where I proved that. Oh, me!

The second verse takes things a step further by telling us our men would be better off alone in the wilderness than to dwell with a griping wife. The wilderness? Really? But it’s dry and dangerous, but apparently not as bad as a contentious and angry woman. You know, one who complains that he’s never home then gets frustrated with him when he is. The wife who fusses that he doesn’t help with the housework then complains when he doesn’t do it the right way (i.e., her way). The wife who seems never to be satisfied, who always has to have the last word, who thinks she should be running the household instead of the other way around. When I put it that way, I wonder how many husbands would actually prefer to live in the wilderness or the attic.

Ladies, we’ve got to get it together! God created us to be helpmeets. The last time I looked, complaining and arguing never helped anyone. When we’re difficult to get along with and insist on having our own way, we tear our husbands down. Instead of showing them the respect they deserve, we insinuate that their opinions don’t matter and we would be better off to do things ourselves. Is it any wonder our men withdraw from our company? Is it any surprise they’d rather do their own thing or hang out with the guys?

Our husbands are a treasure, and we need to treat them as such. We ought to be agreeable and positive, always respecting their opinion. I’m not saying we should allow them to lord over us or that we can never have our own opinion, but I am saying we need to remember to whom God gave the authority of the family. It belongs to our husbands, not us. He should have the final say, and we should love and respect him enough to go along with that and to do so willingly, not begrudgingly.

I don’t know about you, ladies, but I don’t like the idea that my sweet hubby would be better off living in the attic or the wilderness than living with me. I want our home (and my presence) to be inviting and welcoming. I desire for my man to want to spend time with me because doing so makes him feel loved, appreciated, and refreshed. For this to come about, however, I have some work to do. I need to get my attitude in order. How about you?

Temperance as a Characteristic of Love

If we’re allowing others to dictate how we act or feel, we’re giving them far too much control over our lives.png

Leave it to the Lord to save the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) for last.  Yes, today, we’re talking about temperance—another word whose usage has been lost over the centuries.  However, if we pinpoint the beginning of the word, we’ll see something we’re all painfully familiar with—temper.

In its simplest definition, temperance means self-control or restraint.  It carries with it the idea of keeping a tight rein on our words, actions, attitudes, and desires.  This is not a popular principle in this day and age where people live to “get what they deserve.”  Between all-you-can-eat buffets, credit cards, and social media, our self-control is tested every day.  Should I go back for another plate, or is three enough?  Should I go ahead and spend the money on that new furniture even though I don’t have the money to spend?  And don’t even get me started on the rants that take place on social media.  Of course, this is only a few areas where our temperance is put to the test.

First Corinthians 13:5 tells us love is “not easily provoked.”  Jason and I joked about this on the way to the grocery store this morning.  He was in one of his playful moods (which translates into seeing how much he can annoy me) and was making this terrible clicking sound with his mouth.  After about ten seconds, I looked over at him, and I guess the expression on my face was comical because he burst out laughing.  “I was wondering how long you’d let me do that before giving me that look.”  I laughed too and told him how my devotion today was on temperance.  I don’t think his clicking truly provoked me but had he continued, I may have become a bit irritable.  So much for self-control, right?

As if that phrase doesn’t make us squirm enough, Paul doesn’t stop there.  He goes on in verse 7 to remind us that love bears all things.  The word “bear” in this verse implies a covering, as in love covers all sin.  It’s not that we excuse the sins of those we love but instead, we choose to overlook their faults and focus on their strengths, and let me tell you, that takes a lot of self-control.  So many times, it’s easier to see the bad than the good.  Dwelling on the negative leads to bitterness which then leads to hateful words and harsh actions.  From there, the downward spiral continues until marriages are ended, friendships are ruined, and other relationships are destroyed.

As I was praying about and considering my word for 2019, one that ranked high on the list was the word “choose.”  Had I decided to use it as my daily motto, it would have served as a reminder that I have a choice in how I think, act, and feel.  Each day, I choose to dwell on the positive or the negative.  I decide whether or not to surrender my will to God fully.  I determine how I act and what my attitude is like.  Each day is full of choices.  I can choose to let my temper get the best of me—to be easily provoked—or I can choose not to sweat the small stuff.  So what if Jason left his socks in the middle of the floor again?  In the grand scheme of things, does it matter?  Isn’t it more important that I focus on the fact that he took time out of his day off to help me with the grocery shopping so the task wouldn’t be too much for me?  Absolutely!

One phrase we carelessly use in our everyday language is the phrase:  “make me.”  For example, “he makes me so angry” or “she made me feel bad.”  Dear one, if we’re allowing others to dictate how we act or feel, we’re giving them far too much control over our lives.  No one can “make us” angry or emotional.  We choose to give in to those feelings, and that’s where temperance comes in.  I’m not saying it’s easy.  When someone says something unkind, my first reaction is to take the comment as a personal insult and give into the painful emotions that accompany that choice.  Instead, I should shrug my shoulders and hold fast to the truth found in God’s Word.  If someone doesn’t like it, oh well!  As long as I’m doing right, that’s all I need to worry about.  It’s not my job to please everyone in the process, and the sooner I get that through my thick skull, the better off I’ll be.

Temperance.  Self-control.  Restraint.  How are you doing today?  Are you easily provoked by someone’s annoying habits or quirky personality?  Do you find it difficult to look past the negative to focus on the positive?  Do you blame others for how you feel, speak, or act?  If so, you may want to talk with the Lord about helping you work on your temperance.  After all, if we—as Christians—lack self-control, how can we adequately portray the love of Christ?

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
— II Timothy 1:7